Going Home. A Short Story.

I wrote this story as a submission to the Bristol Short Story competition and the Scottish Arts Club Short Story competition. It did not make the long list for either, and now that I am over the disappointment I can share it with you.

It is a very special story drawn from a real-life experience.

I tend to research the details in my stories and I include little bits of symbolism that become the golden thread throughout the narrative. Names of characters are chosen for their meaning, as are the plants and trees featured. I love details.

I hope you enjoy reading it.


They walked in peaceful silence, her small companion’s gloved hand nestled trustingly in hers. The air was so cold it felt brittle on her face. Occasionally, the crisp crunch of the boy’s red wellingtons on a frozen puddle was the only sound announcing their presence.

It was a clear morning. The memory of last night’s frost still glistened on the skeletal hedgerows. With a slight shiver, she folded the collar of her coat against the February chill.  A sigh escaped her lips—her warm breath a fleeting vapour. Within seconds, a mere memory. The bones of a shabby cottage came into view. It was much like any of the other cottages dotted along the country lane, but for the presence of an immense yew tree, its gnarled branches held aloft like an ancient guardian.

The sudden snap of a twig in the mossy, damp undergrowth beneath the yew, drew her attention. She gazed groundward—a robin—recently fledged, dull brown feathers hopping along. Fearless, its beady eyes seemed to examine them quizzically.

A baby robin in February!’ She exclaimed. ‘And all alone. It would be a miracle if you survive. Poor wee thing.’

Miracles. There would be none here today.

Sensing that he was being ignored, the boy tugged insistently on her hand, rewarding her attention with a lopsided, snot-covered smile, his blue almond-shaped eyes twinkling mischievously.

Too cold to be daydreaming out here, Noah. Let’s knock. Get inside where it’s warm, eh, my boy?

Flecks of blue paint stuck to her bobbly gloves as she knocked on the tired door. A shambling step within held the promise of relief from the cold. Reluctantly, the stubborn lock gave way to the scraping insistence of a key.

Reverend.’ A voice like gravel. ‘I’ve been expecting you.’ A sudden smile took life on the weather-beaten features as the small boy peeped shyly at him from behind the woman’s black coat.

Hello, Fergus.’ She stumbled over her words. ‘My son… the babysitter cancelled. I had to bring him with. He won’t be any trouble.’

The old man shook his head, ‘you’re alright, Reverend, the lad can sit here by the fire. I can do with a bit of company.

How is she, Fergus? Any change?

Shoulders bowed. He was a tired man in need of relief. ‘She hasn’t eaten in days. I can’t even get her to drink a bit of water. She’s just hanging on. Always was a fighter, my Nell.  I thought, maybe if you could pray with her…?’ What remained unsaid, hung naked in the air between them.

Of course,’ she nodded, taking his trembling hands in hers. Desperate to give the old man hope, but knowing she had none to give. Times like these her dog-collar seemed to expose her worn faith. For Fergus and Nell, the season for hope was long gone. ‘I’ll go through and sit with her. Say a prayer.

The old man nodded at her and shuffled to the sink to fill a slightly-battered kettle with water. ‘I’ll put the kettle on, then, make us some tea, eh, Noah? And a biscuit would be just the ticket today.’ Smiling at the boy, he patted the seat of a rocking chair near the kitchen window. The boy scrambled onto it, beaming a satisfied toothy smile as the chair started rocking back and forth.

The woman, now divested of the encumbrances of winter—coat, hat, gloves, boots—turned towards the doorway. Her stockinged feet cold on the flagstones, she padded gently towards the bedroom at the far end of the dimly-lit hallway. Reaching the entrance, she paused and drew in her breath. As if to inhale courage from deep within.

The muted strains of a cello concerto were playing somewhere in the room. Elgar.  Faded lace curtains at the window were open wide allowing the pale wintery light to dance gently on the bed quilt. The figure in the bed so slight. So still. Nell. Already, it seemed as if she were waiting on her passage home. Not quite ready to go, but almost… Waiting.

Gently the woman folded herself into the deep armchair beside the bed—enveloped by years of worn comfort. Someone had placed a bone china jug of sweet violets on the nightstand. Fergus. The handle had a crack and the gilt had rubbed off in places, but the fragrance of the delicate purple flowers was sweet and smelled like spring. A defiant sign of life.

Hello, Nell. It’s me,’ she whispered, ‘I’ve come to see how you are. It’s cold outside today. I saw a young robin. Fancy that, eh? Just hopping about in the undergrowth. Early for robins, I think.’ Softly she let the words fall from her tongue. Like a fragile offering to her friend. I see you. You’re not forgotten. Reaching for Nell’s hand, she gently stroked the paper-thin skin with her thumb. Skin barely covering the bones of once-proud fingers now cruelly twisted with age.

Shall I read to you? A poem, or a psalm? Psalm 23? That was always… is, your favourite, not?

Up, down, up, down the frail chest rising and falling to its own rhythm. Breaths so shallow they were almost imperceptible. Eyes closed to this world. Life, barely there. Just waiting.

It was as she reached for the dog-eared bible just behind the jug of violets, that the boy suddenly appeared next to her. Startled, she jumped up, took his hand ready to guide him from the room. Ready to shield him from the starkness of impending death. There was too much life oozing from his little body. It felt wrong, here. In this place. But the boy resisted and with a stubborn shake of his head, lips puckered determinedly, he shuffled right up to the edge of the bed. His face so close to Nell’s that their noses almost touched.

A sharp intake of breath from the doorway. Fergus.

The woman looked over her shoulder at the old man. His face was grey. Fatigue. Shock. Probably both. His eyes fixed on the scene playing out before him.

The boy was stroking Nell’s cheek with a chubby hand that still carried traces of the shortbread he had been eating earlier. A pale crumb stuck to the velvety skin under her left eye.

A hush fell over the room.

And then, her voice a raspy whisper, ‘You’ve come… I knew you would.’ Her breath came shallow. One last effort, ‘my boy…


The boy’s hand gently fell to the quilt.

Come, Noah.’ The woman, hands resting on her son’s small shoulders, stepped back as Fergus, with raw tears finding their way down leathery cheeks, slowly took his place next to the bed where his entire life lay.

It was much later, after Donald MacLaine from the undertakers had been, and the boy had woken from an exhausted nap in her arms, that Fergus had carefully placed the black and white photograph of the boy, on the kitchen table in front of her. The corners rubbed bare from years of desperate longing.

We had a son. Over the years we had given up hope of ever having children, and then when Nell was almost forty-five years old, our Ewan arrived.’ He glanced away at the boy happily rocking back and forth once more in the old rocking chair.  ‘He also…’ meeting her gaze with a tired smile, ‘He also had Down Syndrome, but that didn’t matter to us. Never was a child loved more. He never left Nell’s side. He was the greatest gift we could have ever wished for. Nell adored him.’ His voice started shaking. Tears fell onto the smiling image of his little boy. A child; frozen in time. ‘We were so happy, until one winter, he fell ill. Some sort of chest infection, they said. He died that winter, and so did a part of my Nell. He was only five-years old. She never got over his death.’

 His gaze came to rest once more on the young boy seated there in his kitchen, as his heart remembered another boy from another time. ‘She was waiting for him. She was waiting just for him to come and fetch her.

That afternoon, as the sun caressed the horizon, the woman and the boy made their way home. A sudden shaft of light broke through the branches of the yew tree. And there, bathed in the last rays of the sun, was the young robin. He was no longer alone. A flash of crimson revealed the presence of an adult robin, perched in one of the lower branches.

You’ve found your mum,’ the woman whispered, ‘all is well here, little one, fly home now.

©Liezel Graham







The Therapist.

At home, Gabriel only ate the red M&M’s.

The other colours all terrified him.

His exasperated mum wrote it off as ‘just another of his autistic quirks.’

He couldn’t tell her that the angry lady with the piercing eyes, always ate the red ones during his ABA sessions; ‘rewarding’ him with the other colours when his fear finally forced him to follow her barked commands.

The other colours were the currency of her grudging satisfaction, and only when she slid them across the table at him, one by one, did he not have to look into her eyes.

To Gabriel, red, was the colour of freedom.

The Garden Club.

Flora was a busybody.

Nobody at the Garden Club could stand her.

Nothing was ever to her standard.

Frank had had enough of her griping about his fuchsias.

Weeks after she disappeared, even the police were impressed with how they bloomed.

‘Aye,’ he said, ‘new bonemeal.’.

The Interview.

“Right,” He said, eyes roving over her with interest, “What can you bring to the marriage?”

She looked at him as if he were the only man in the room; to her, he was the very oxygen she needed in order to survive, “I will love you with every fibre of my being. Until I die, everything that I am will be yours.”

He nodded slowly, “Right… erm, but can you iron a straight pleat in formal trousers? It’s really an essential skill in a woman, you know?”


A slightly longer story than my usual. Less than 1000 words, so a lovely quick flash-fiction read that I hope will convey my heart about children with special needs and (dis)abilities.

I have been wanting to write this for such a long time. My son is autistic and as most parents who have walked the diagnosis road will know, everybody has a different reaction to that initial diagnosis; those first words spoken over your child can be a breath of hope, or they can feel like the weight of all your dreams being crushed.

I have spent many hours asking God why my son has autism. Yes, it is part of who he is and I would never trade the incredibly quirky, beautiful personality that he has, because of autism, but he faces challenges that I would give my life to remove from him, if I could, also because of autism.

This is how my heart has made sense of the ‘why’s and the ‘how’s’ that stumble through my heart and my head at 3h00 am.

I hope that this story blesses you, and finds a home in someone’s heart.


Come little one,’ He whispered,It’s time.

‘…I am so afraid,’ the small voice came haltingly.’ How will I know what to do?’

‘You are never alone. I will always be with you. You are so precious to Me.’

‘…but, how long? When can I come home?’

‘That, I cannot tell you, little one, not yet. You don’t need to know that. Yet. But, in the blink of an eye, you will be home again, and I shall be right here waiting for you.’

‘…can someone else not go… please?’

‘No. I have chosen you. You are the right one for this. In all of time there has never been anyone more perfect than you. Trust me. I have hand-picked you. My people have forgotten how to love each other unconditionally. I showed them once, but it is not an easy lesson for them to learn. They have built walls around their hearts for fear of each other’s differences. They look, but they do not see. They hear, but they do not listen. They strive for a yoke of perfection that I never placed upon their necks. Life has become trite. Expendable. Cheap. They need to be reminded just how precious they are, how fragile life is. How every little thing is a gift from Me. They look to the gaudy, the shiny tinsel, the outer; instead of the most important thing: that which is inside. Somehow, they have learned to weigh each other up according to some ridiculous scale of worthiness… and that which I value the most, a pure heart, they have disdain for. I am sending you, to remind those who you will encounter that I am the Author of Life. That every life is precious. That every life has value. That every life is from My Hand. That every fragile heartbeat is the melody of heaven. This will not be easy, little one, but I am with you. No matter what happens, remember that I will never forsake you. I will never abandon you. And soon, you will be home again.  I am so proud of you. You are perfection. And when they say that you are not perfect; not normal, remember this: You are perfect. You are a copy of Me. You are on a most important mission, little one, for you will show them how to love again. Without expecting anything in return. And they need to learn to trust, that I have made you perfectly, just the way you are. That I intended for you to be exactly the way you are. And some of them will question whether your life has value. Whether you might not be better off dead. They will say that it will be a mercy. And it will be frightening, I know, but trust Me. I am with you. Always. Now, go. I love you.’

The baby’s mewling cries finally filled the delivery room. It had been a hard labour for the exhausted woman, but she had waited so long for this moment that the pain that had almost torn her apart was already fading from her consciousness, driven by a flood of emotion. Finally. After years of waiting and hoping, she had given birth to her son. Her husband exchanged proud smiles with her. He was a father. At last. A lifetime of cricket games and fishing on Saturday afternoons lay before him. He thought his heart would burst with pride.

The infant had stopped crying and was now making soft snuffling noises. Wrapped in what had once been green sterile cloth, he was systematically being assessed by the paediatrician on call.

Abnormal characteristics were noted on a crisp checklist:  Apgar scores hovering disappointingly low; epicanthic folds on the almond-shaped eyes and a flat little nose. Assessed. Deviations from the norm noted with clinical impassion.

The doctor sighed. Such a pity. A shame, really. Now he would have to relay the bad news to this couple. Why couldn’t they all be born perfect? Medical science still had a long way to go towards ensuring that genetic diseases were eradicated, but, that was life for you. Taking a deep breath, he turned to the new parents with his verdict:

I am so sorry. But there’s something wrong. We’ll run some more tests to confirm the genetics, but your son has Down’s Syndrome. I’ll give you a bit of privacy. I know it’s a shock. But, with time you’ll grow to accept it and well, we’ve come a long way from putting these children into institutions.’ He gives them a forced, slightly too-bright smile. A panacea for the lifetime of hardship ahead of them. ‘He might have a happy, contented life, one never knows, but we can chat about your options once you’ve had some time to deal with the shock. Again, I am so sorry.

Quietly, unseen by human eyes, a Presence was standing next to the plastic crib that held the tiny little boy. A whisper through the ether heard only by soft, downy ears.

I am with you, my little one. I will never leave you. You are perfect. You are loved. I am here, and I will never leave. You are my chosen.’

— Chosen.

Stepping Stones.

He was not afraid of the walls around her heart.

Her defences were not to be conquered;

but gently dismantled.

One rock at a time.

Until the light shone into her darkest places,

and she could find her way out.

– Stepping Stones.


For twelve years you bled.

Every day.

Twelve, long years you watched helplessly, as your lifeblood flowed away.


Nothing could stop it.

No doctor, no healer, no remedy.

Nothing worked.


You must have been tired.

All the time.

The Bible speaks not of this, but it’s true… you would have been chronically tired.



I am sure that fear became your constant companion?

It must have.

I often wonder whether you were betrothed to someone?

Chosen, by someone, before…?

The Bible says nothing of this either.

Your personal life.

How old you were.

Whether you had ever known the joy of feeling a baby move within your belly.

Whether you knew the security of a husband’s love?

At least…. before.

But these are not mentioned.

Just that you bled.

For so long.

For too long.

The rest I read between the lines.

That you were desperate.

That you were scared.




Did you call out to Him?

Beg Him? For mercy? For healing?

For death?

Merciful, death.

Did you wonder where He was?

Whether He really cared?

I did.

My faith is like a wave on the ocean.

One moment it swells… full of hope… and then.



Splashing into a million directions.

Paused for the next pregnant moment.

But you?

Did they whisper about you?

Did you try and go about your daily duties… the market… the washing… did you walk about with your head hanging low?

Knowing you couldn’t look.

It would hurt too much to see their faces.

The pity.

The disgust.

Knowing their piety is your shame.

Did they gossip amongst themselves?

Oh, righteously of course!

…about your sin?


What evil you had done that made Him punish you as He did?

Did you carry shame like a mantel on your bowed shoulders?

Was your pain and loneliness etched like a map across features old-before-their-time?

The other women would have avoided you.

Everyone would have.

Everybody looking away as you slunk past.


Afraid to even look at you in case you made them unclean, too.

The shame, with you every day and nobody to help.

Nobody to free.




Did you feel that way?





She, who has no worth.

As if for a brief second, God turned His face from you.

Never to look upon you again.

I know that feeling, too.



Did your heart, ache, dear one?

Did you feel a desperation so intense, that it almost tore the fabric of your being?

And then, that day that you heard of Him.

The One they called ‘The Healer.’?

Did you know immediately?

Did your spirit surge with hope, or was it just a flutter?

At first a quiet stirring?

Hope, singing in the dark.

Did you wonder whether the stories that made their way back to your village were rumours, or Truth, come at last?


I think you knew.

I think your heart must have beaten wildly.

I imagine you bent low over the well. Drawing water.

Heaving buckets with a body tired from blood ebbing away.

Stopping every now and then, to draw breath.

And then.

You hear some talk. You strain to hear.

What are the other women saying? Can it be, you think?

That He is here?


The One who heals?

The One who speaks Freedom?

Can it finally be?

For a second everything inside you goes still.


Tired heart fighting like a caged sparrow.

And then!

You run. Wildly groping, dropping your bucket of water on the way, the drops spilling on the dry, dusty ground.

Like an offering.

Like blood.

Your blood.

His blood.

But you don’t notice because desperation spurs you on.

Breathless you try to locate the sound.

His voice.

Your breath comes ragged.

You are close.

So close, but then.

You stop.

Fall to the ground.

Despair mocking you now.

Who do you think you are?

The crowds.





A wall.

Keeping you out.

Forcing the likes of you, away.

I see your tears.

Hot with disappointment.

I see your chest heave with a desperate exhaustion.

Anger, crushing your spirit.

I know.

It crushed mine, too.

How would you ever get close?

The ones who (think they) hold the tickets to His Presence.

They’re still around today.

You wouldn’t know, but yes, they’re still here.

Controlling access.


How would you ever get past the ones who follow him?

Disciples, they call them?

They hedge Him in.

Protectively… against the pushing, over-excited crowds.

They stand like soldiers… guarding… they won’t let you close.



Did you feel frantic? So close to the One whom your spirit knew…

Even if you did not.


But then, I see you drop to the ground… crawling… trying to protect your head from the blows.

Trampling feet of the crowd.

Trying to see where His feet are.

Dust stinging your eyes… streaking your face with filthy tears.

You know.

Yes, you do! If you can only touch His hem.

Touch, only.

You push forward.

Hands in soil and eyes on hem.

Eyes on Him.

You keep pushing. The desperation in your face – etched.

Your hands reaching… almost there…. almost there.

A man’s foot crushes your hand.

The pain threatens to crush.

Almost too much to bear, but you inch forward.

Tears flowing freely now, but still, you crawl.

Still, you crawl.

Because you know.

Something has ignited within you.

You are a prisoner seeking Freedom.

You KNOW…. That this man, Jesus, that He is the One.


How were you to know then, how could you see then, that His blood would be spilt?

On parched earth.

Just like yours.

On parched hearts.

Just like mine.

That His blood would redeem you.

Would redeem me.

Clean made Unclean, to redeem the unclean.

To make new.

To restore.

The moment your hand brushed that dusty hem. That dirty, soiled hem.

You felt it.

Power surging through your body!

Something changes!

Everything changes.

But, the people… someone must have noticed you by then?

Must have seen you crawl in the dust.

Where you belong.

Did they draw back in fear?


But then, dear one, did it still matter?

Did you still care?

How could you explain? How could they ever understand?

But then.

His voice.

Someone touched me.

His disciples looking at Him in confusion.

Heads shaking, frowns seeking.


Your world stops.

Silence settles on the crowd.

How could He know?

How could He possibly have known?

That in all the hundreds pushing against Him… shouting His Name… how did He know that you.


Unclean one.

That you had dared to touch Him.


Were you afraid, when trembling, you stood up to face Him?

Did fear have a choke-hold on your throat as you stumbled over words?

Tripping over a multitude of explanations that would see you not cast out?

Like a leper.


And when He moved through the few still brave enough to stand around the filth of you.

When He, the Holy One, took your work-scarred hands and looked at you, and smiled.

What did your heart feel?

Was He the first to touch your hand in twelve long years?

Did your skin register the touch of Another?

And when He looked into your eyes and smiled.

At you.

Not, with pity.

Not, with disgust.

With love.

When He told you that your faith… your faith, had healed you?

When He said it again… louder this time, so that everyone could hear… could HEAR that you were free!





Did you weep?

I know you did.

I did, too.

How could you not…

Freedom had come for you.

Grace had found you.

Redemption had whispered your name.

You knew, didn’t you?

Because I did, too.

– Blood

Luke 8 v 43 – 47

© 2017. Liezel Graham. All rights reserved.