I’ve not done a WordPress writing prompt for what feels like ages. Today’s word is wheel. For Yasmin life is like a wheel of fortune… here’s an excerpt from Lover’s Retreat released in July. More excepts can be read here.
CHAPTER ONE: FORTUNE WHEEL OF LIFE
Yasmin sits uncomfortably on the stiff chair in her late mother’s solicitor’s office, in Victoria central London. Her hands are folded in her lap and her gaze fixes firmly on them. She can’t believe the news she has just heard, she is rich, very rich. Her mother left her entire estate to her only daughter.
Yasmin’s mother passed away in a restful sleep, she was diagnosed with lung cancer five years ago. It was a miracle to her and her family that her mother held on for so long. Mr. Daniels breaks the silence.
“Ms. O’Neil are you okay?”
Yasmin looks up from her lap.
“Oh yes, sorry I’m a little shocked. Have I understood right? Fifty thousand pounds cash and the four bedroom house?”
“Yes, correct Ms. O’Neil. Your mother had the house valued just before she passed, you can include three hundred thousand pounds for the house also.”
Mr. Daniels fixes Yasmin with a concerned look. He imagines a thirty something year old female who receives news that she is more than financially stable, would be over the moon with happiness. Yasmin’s body language is reserved and hard to read.
“Okay, thank you for the confirmation. So what happens next?”
Mr. Daniels removes his round framed glasses and leans back in his chair.
“Well it’s completely up to you Ms. O’Neil, you are the only beneficiary your mother was very clear in her will, you have access to the money. As for the house you decide how you wish to proceed.”
“Right, thank you. For now I think I’ll keep the house I’m… was I should say living there with Mum. I’d like to hold on to it.”
“As you wish, my secretary will give you a call by Friday with an update. In the meantime, here is your copy of your mother’s will.”
Yasmin reaches over the large oak desk as she nervously reaches for her mother’s will.
“Thank you Mr. Daniels. I’ll see myself out.”
“It’s a pleasure, take care.”
Mr. Daniels offers Yasmin his hand which she shakes timidly across the large desk.
Yasmin rises from her seat and smooths over her brown curls, slightly frizzy from the afternoon drizzle and damp air.
Once outside on the pavement Yasmin is greeted with the hustle and bustle of London. City workers and tourists spring from all directions. She feels dizzy and suddenly hot, even though it’s December and less than ten degrees today. For comfort she unzips her tattered old winter coat, and ducks her head under her coat from the light rain starting to fall again. Glancing around she quickly crosses the main road, she keeps an eye out for taxi drivers whizzing past the station. Once she is safely across the road, she heads inside Victoria station and makes her way over to Starbucks for a Latte. As Yasmin opens the door of the busy coffee shop she’s greeted with Christmas cheer. The décor inside reflects the holiday season with tinsel and Christmas songs playing softly in the background. The warmth from the coffee machines and human bodies are welcome in contrast to the crisp bitter December winds outside. Joining the queue, she looks around and wonders what she will do for Christmas this year, now her mother has passed. Is there much point in celebrating? She wonders.
“Hello madam, what can I get you today?” A tall, eastern European male smiles at Yasmin from behind the counter.
“Just a small Latte please.”
“Coming right up, is it to have here or take out madam?”
“I’ll have it here please.”
“And your name madam?”
“Thank you it’s on its way.”
Yasmin watches him place her name on her cup. She pays for her drink and stands by the side of the till, she watches the baristas make quick work of her coffee, and hand over a steaming cup. Yasmin spots a seat over in the corner by the window and heads over. The warmth of her Latte and the caffeine hit relaxes her, as her mind starts to race over the last five years of her life. She was married and separated by the age of thirty two, technically she is still married. After just three years of a short lived marriage her husband up and left her. He was heartless and blunt in his reasons for deserting her, for two and a half years the pair had tried to conceive a child, test after test concluded that there was no fertility issue with either of them. Yasmin just could not fall pregnant. It put a massive strain on their relationship and marriage, their communication broke down and Yasmin became the nagging wife. Her and her husband’s lovemaking became a routine operation, with an aim of reproducing rather than for enjoyment. A month later her mother was diagnosed with cancer. It was a terrible time for Yasmin, she lost herself completely as she threw herself into her new role as sole care giver for her ill mother. Her work suffered, she disconnected with her friends, her appearance took on a life of its own. Most importantly her love and passion for dance slowly disappeared, she no longer had the time or desire to attend dance classes, or polish her ballet technique with a terminally ill mother.
On the odd occasion when she did somehow carve out the time or find the desire to attend the dance studio, she experienced blackouts of sound. This is what disturbed Yasmin the most, she feared she was losing her hearing.
Over the years her fear has materialised, she now is almost deaf in one ear. For five years, she has been hiding it as best as she can. Quite soon after her blackouts started she learned to pay attention to lip movement when she is spoken to. She made up every excuse in the book internally for not going to the doctors. She was too busy, work was demanding, her mother’s care was more important.
For five years Yasmin put her mother’s care and needs before her own, now it shows physically. She feels less confident than she was eight years ago aged twenty nine when she married David. Back then she was proud of her toned ballerina’s figure, her petite five foot five frame would stand confidently, she wore the latest fashions, figure hugging dresses, sky scraper high heels and make up. These days she’d barely run a brush through her hair or put on some mascara. Life took a toll on Yasmin in a mean way. She faced all her life changing experiences alone mainly out of choice, she did not want to feel as though she was a burden on her girlfriends.
Looking out of the coffee shop window Yasmin’s mind reverts to her mother’s funeral. The day was grey and overcast, it drizzled as she stood by her mother’s open grave as her casket was lowered into the muddy soil. She feels she has done her mother proud, by giving her a send off that she would have wanted. An intimate service at the local Catholic church her mother attended each week without fail for the twenty years she lived at the same address in south London.
The service then moved over to the local cemetery in Nunhead for her burial and final goodbyes. Close family and friends attended on the day, they did their best to comfort her as her mother’s only child. Yasmin started to grieve heavily over her loss and lack of siblings to turn to.
“What am I to do now?”
Yasmin whispers out loud to herself in the corner as she sips her coffee and mulls over life.
Friday afternoon Yasmin stares at her laptop screen, she is now fifty thousand pounds richer than she was last night. Her mind boggles over why her mother never shared with her how much she had in savings. She glances away from her screen to look around the large kitchen, her late mother was so proud of it. With modern tiled floor, white work tops and fitted appliances, one thing her mother was known for is quality. Everything Mona did was done with style and flare, that was her mother. Yasmin’s phone buzzes on the glass table next to her, she smiles as she places the phone to her good ear.
“Hi Sebrina how are you?”
“I’m well Yas, but how are you? I’ve not heard from you in a while.”
“Yeah I fine, just taking each day as it comes.”
“Hmm, that’s the best way. Some days will be harder than others but you will get through it.”
“You’ve got to look forward now. A lot has changed, what are your plans? You must have a bucket list of things you’d love to do.”
“Funny you should say that, I’ve had a bucket list of things to do for as long as I can remember. I actually dug it out the other day.”
“Wow, interesting and what’s on the list?”
“Well, travel, dance goals and motherhood stuck out at me.”
“Great, there’s two there from the list you can work on right away, with the motherhood part don’t let the past turn you crazy.”
“Oh believe me I’m not! I don’t even have a man to work on that part of the to do list with.”
Both women chuckle down the phone.
“Yas I’m so glad you can see the bright side of life.”
“It’s either that or go crazy, I know which one I’d rather. But as it so happens I think I need a break, a long one too. The last five years I’ve been tied to London and the same routine. Not that I am resentful at all for caring for Mum.”
“Absolutely, no one can ever say you have been selfish for taking a break, no matter how long.”
“I’m thinking of going travelling for a while.”
“Where too? Sounds great.”
“I have no idea, that’s what I’m trying to work out, the world is a big place! But I could do with a beach, some sun and relaxing. The December weather is doing nothing for my mood.”
“So you won’t be around for Christmas?”
“I doubt it, who do I have to spend it with?”
“You’ve got me!”
“Thanks Sebrina but you have a husband and family, you don’t need a third while hanging on.”
“No way, don’t think that. You’re one of my oldest and dearest friends.”
“Aww, thanks all the same but I think I’ll pass.”
“Okay, your call.”
“If you need anything Yas, anything at all you just call okay?”
“Thanks of course I will, but I should be okay once I know where I’m heading. I’ll keep you posted.”
“Excellent, it’s just a quick call as I’m on lunch at work, I better get going I’ll talk to you soon okay?”
“Perfect speak to you soon.”
Yasmin put the phone down with a smile, what does the future hold for me runs through her mind. She contemplates the future fifty thousand pounds richer. Glancing at her bucket list she looks at the first point on the list, travel. Yasmin’s life has been more than isolated over the last five years, the last time she set foot on a plane was on her way to St. Lucia for her honeymoon with David. She smiles again, not at the honeymoon itself, anything to do with David is still painful, however her memories of the paradise she experienced in St. Lucia remain fond memories. The sounds, smells, feel and pace of the Caribbean makes her mouth water, as she recalls the ten days she spent on the island.
It had been her idea to visit the island, to seek half of her heritage from this exotic place. Her mother was born and bred in St. Lucia she came to the UK in her early twenties as a qualified nurse. A profession her mother loved to the core. Her father was a Scottish born doctor, he owned his own general practice in Hammersmith west London. The couple met while working in the medical profession when her father moved to London. The pair had spent a wonderful twenty years together, through thick and thin regardless of the stares and racial slurs they experienced while out together. In her mother’s day back in the sixties and seventies it was rare, and even frowned upon to enter an interracial marriage. Her father suddenly passed away following a serious heart attack. She was only young at the time, but she remembers her mother’s heartache as well as her own.
Yasmin opens a Google page and then types in “places to relax and discover yourself.” In the heat of the moment following her reflection on her life over the last five years, failed marriage and death of her mother she realises just how much she has lost touch with herself. A list of potential links pop up, scanning through them she clicks on the third link “spiritual retreats in paradise rediscover one’s self.” The loaded webpage offers Yasmin a wealth of information of spiritualism, mediation and reconnecting with nature. She spends almost an hour reading through the information. She clicks on a link that directs her to a list of spiritual and self discovery retreats. The list is endless with locations in Thailand, Seychelles, China, and Sri Lanka all grabbing her attention. Her eyes settle on Sri Lanka, her mouth falls open as she gasps at the beauty of the island. The water is light aqua green with soft gold yellow sand, healthy green palm trees are scattered around the beach.
As she clicks again a second picture pops up showing a stream with a large grey elephant basking in the water, a local Sir Lankan sits on the back of the elephant smiling at the camera. A warm feeling comes over Yasmin as she smiles at the picture.
Pushing her chair back she heads over to the kettle and fills it with water, as she waits for it to boil she looks out the window. London’s weather has nothing new to offer this afternoon. The December weather is grey and dull, looking out at her mother’s pride and joy garden there are no flowers in bloom and the grass in wet. Flashbacks of her mother pulling up weeds, neatening hedges and organising plant pots spring to Yasmin’s mind. It pained her mother whenever she was too ill to tend to her pride and joy. All she could do was sit out and observe the garden. Yasmin would watch as her mother made note of what needed to be done, as soon as she could get on her feet. Yasmin turns her back with a sigh and starts to brew her tea, then heads back over to her laptop on the kitchen table.
She clicks on the “about this retreat” page and starts to indulge in the island of Sri Lanka. Before long she has learned about the country’s diverse inhabitants, religions and rich Buddhist heritage. She’s drawn into the country’s potential as a place to visit. As she reads on a link advertising self discovery retreats catches her eye.
Reconnect with yourself and nature at the At Peace with One’s Self retreat, in south Asia Sri Lanka. Guests will spend five days in Sri Lanka’s small coastal market town Dickwella South, within a small group of twenty guests all on a spiritual journey to self discovery, rest, reflection and reconnecting with their inner person. Dickwella South is home to the largest Buddhist statue at one hundred and sixty feet tall. Guests will have a chance to visit so please bring your cameras! During the retreat, you’ll be introduced to the Buddhist practice mindfulness, mediation, and practice self awareness activities with your peers. There will be time for fun and social activities, the retreat is located on Dickwella South’s long sandy beach. Retreat dates for the rest of 2016 are as follows:
1st – 5th December 2016- full
7th-12 December 2016- full
14th -19th December 2016- full
21st- 26th December 2016- limited spaces
28th -2nd January 2017- spaces available
Cost: £500.00 per person which includes a private room, all meals and drinks included, free materials, books, DVDs and a tour of the market town. Please note this is an over eighteen’s only retreat for single people. If you are a family or under eighteen please click here for other retreats.
Contact the below email or number for more details on the At Peace with One’s Self retreat. email@example.com 0207 645 9548 – John (retreat leader).
Yasmin can’t believe her eyes a small price for such an amazing experience. She flicks back to her online banking page, to look again at the number of zeros on her balance. Smiling to herself she grabs her purse from her bedroom, and quickly rushes back to her laptop. She clicks on the 21st- 26th December 2016 date and books herself a place. She does not fancy a lonely Christmas, and over the last few days as she reflected on life, her new found fortune and sudden freedom she decides it is time to rediscover herself and have some fun.
Her boss has been very accommodating during the last five years, due to her care responsibilities Yasmin often requested time off for doctor’s appointments. Toward the end of her mother’s illness she’d often called in with little notice and informed him she will not make it into work, as her mother was too unwell to be left alone.
Yasmin’s job as a junior accounts manager for a women’s retail store is enjoyable most days, but if she had her way she’d be a dance teacher or a dancer touring all over the world showcasing her skill.
Glancing back down at her bucket list beside her, she has a sudden urge to take advantage of her new freedom, and desire to travel more widely comes over her. Travel is the number one item on her bucket list she wrote many years ago, as a fresh faced newlywed. After five years’ service with her employer she has the benefit of long term leave via a sabbatical or career break. Chewing the inside of her lip Yasmin picks up her cup of tea and ponders the possibility in more detail. It is a work related benefit, I won’t be asking too much of them runs through her mind. Glancing at the calendar she has just seven days until she leaves for Sri Lanka, her agreement with her boss on her return to work date following a period of compassionate leave to organise her mother’s funeral and pull herself together is open ended. She simply requested that she get in contact with an expected return date, once she has some time to adjust.
Yasmin firmly places down her cup of tea, glances outside the kitchen window to her right at the rain starting to fall. With a small smile she opens her email account and starts to draft an email to her boss. In her email she confirms she would like to cash in her work related benefit of sabbatical, and use half of it from the 21st December 2016 – 21st June 2017. Then return to London refreshed and ready to take on the world again. She apologises for the short notice, but given the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death and five years as her sole carer she hopes that he would understand.