Authors: Ayla Page
The Oak Tree
© United Kingdom 2013
rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording,
or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in
writing from the publisher.
This is a
work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the
product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance
to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales
is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over
and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or
It is with love and pure delight I dedicate this short story to my
friend Lauren, who gave her name to one of the characters, and who, despite
being a new friend, is a lovely friend I’m glad to have.
Thank you to Miranda, who has helped me with so much before publication,
and without whom I would have no blurb!
Thank you to
, who made my cover
readable with his constructive criticism.
Thank you to Louise, who has been my rock throughout, despite needing
one herself and being occupied with university.
A huge thank you to my little girl, I write for you.
And last, but by no
means least, thank you to Karl. Without you, I wouldn’t have ever released,
despite wanting to for years. I couldn’t have done this without you, thank you
for teaching me how, and for pushing the button!
‘‘There was a little
girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
she was very, very good. But when she was bad, she was horrid.’’
Rowan missed her daddy. She hadn’t seen him in a very
long time; her
would not let her. At the grand
old age of eight, Rowan had no pet name for her mother; called her ‘mum’ to her
face. But ‘
’ was the nickname she used behind
her back. The woman was short and stumpy like a felled tree, and had a deep,
booming voice, and a moustache she had to shave or bleach, so
seemed apt, for mother she was, but she was more of a
man, if you looked closely enough.
Rowan still called her daddy her daddy. In private
again only though, for her
had insisted her
boyfriend be called daddy, for he provided the roof over her head, and tucked
her into bed at night, and put the food on the table, whereas her daddy didn’t.
To Rowan, however, those things didn’t matter. On the
rare occasions she’d seen her daddy, she’d felt like a princess; all the time
and energy he’d spent was on her, he made her giggle, his car smelled like her
fruity cereal, his music was loud heavy metal,
his smile was huge and infectious, and his hugs were like no other.
boyfriend was kind of bony and stiff, whereas her
daddy was big and strong, and soft and squishy.
Rowan found herself daydreaming again about seeing her
daddy while she was doing her chores for her
She was walking out of the gate at the end of the garden, through the Deep Dark
Woods, and finding her way to his house by herself to see him. She was thinking
of turning her daydream into a reality when she received a sharp clip to the
back of the head.
’ gal, ‘n’
chores!” Her mother said.
Rowan shoved the laundry into the machine faster, and
mistakenly pushed the heavy clothes too far back too hard, causing the heavy
Hoover to rock, earning her another smack. Said smack sent her head ricocheting
into the machine, and she banged her forehead on the door frame as a result,
and bit her lip. It was all
could do to not cry;
wouldn’t like that ‘silly noise’, that
‘ridiculous racket’ and would only hit her harder.
Rowan kept her teeth wrapped around her bottom lip; if
she tightened her grip she could cause herself more pain than
ever could, and
didn’t deserve to cause her pain. She couldn’t see for tears, but she blinked
them away so that the evil tree stump couldn’t see. Continuing to put the
clothes in the washer, Rowan kept her face averted from her
She shuffled over to the under-sink cupboard for the clothes-soap, and the foul
smelling liquid that apparently made the clothes soft and smell like Swiss
mountains, and decanted a portion of each into the drawer as she’d been shown
years before, before switching the settings to ‘wash’ and pressing ‘go’. She
muffled her snigger as she put away the Swiss cheese liquid and the powdered
soap into the cupboard;
had gotten bored with
her already and had gone to sit down in front of the television in the other room.
It amused Rowan how quickly the wrinkly tree would tire of her if she ignored
and tried not to show how much it upset
A soft nudge at her leg made her smile; Peyton looked
up at her, his big brown eyes were sad inside his daft fluffy head. His soft,
floppy ear rubbed against her hand and she rubbed her fingers over its
comforting texture. Slowly, his tail began to wag. He’d known she was sad; had
seen the taller human strike her the way she lashed out at him. He’d come to
comfort her, as always, and as always, his presence reassured Rowan that soon
she’d be a grown-up and she’d be able to escape this place, and move out and
Rowan turned to face Peyton, and knelt down in front
of the kooky cocker spaniel, not removing her hand from his ear. She brought
her other hand to rest on the dizzy dog’s other ear, and smoothed the fur down,
bringing her nose to the dog’s own. She wrapped her hands around the base of
each ear, and scratched firmly with her nails into the back of the dog’s skull.
She knew that Peyton loved it; his bum always fell to the floor sideways, and
his tail wagged so hard it beat a crescendo on the floor.
in the other room couldn’t hear this, however, for the floor was solid concrete
under the fancy blue tiles, and nothing made noise there like it did in the
rest of the house.
Her best friend looked wistfully at the kitchen door;
his need for the toilet had overcome his love for a good head scratch.
“Want a wee, Peyton?” Rowan asked him, to an answer of
faster wagging and an escapee tongue. Her beloved dog was grinning at her at
the idea of being let outside, if only to relieve himself.
She shouted through to the living room that she was
letting the dog out for a wee, so the stump would know who had opened the door.
Upon hearing a grunt of acknowledgement, she let her dog out, and stepped out
into the chilly autumn evening with him. He didn’t need accompanying; he knew
how to escape the garden but never would. He loved Rowan too much to try and
leave her. Rowan followed him into the back garden to watch him have a run
around and a ‘mad
as her daddy-long-legs called it. She watched with a half-hearted smile as
Peyton picked up his
tennis ball and began
to run around in circles with it. Her smile turned to a beaming grin when he
bounded over to where she stood and proceeded to drop the slimy, slobbery
at her feet. With her thumb and
forefinger she picked up the ball and waved it in the air.
“Is there something you want, Puppy-Peyton?” She
cooed, mimicking her daddy-long-legs. ‘Daddy-long-legs’ was the private pet
name she had for her
boyfriend, for he was
much taller than both her and her
at over six
feet. She didn’t call him this out loud, however, so as to keep the peace; she
didn’t want to suffer her
wrath for she knew
that the man wasn’t her daddy dearest, and it upset her to call him such. She
feared that if she lied too much, one day she’d believe it, and
her own daddy.
Continuing to wave the mangy, slobbery ball around in
the air, she span in front of the dog, whose eyes followed it as though it were
a pork chop
Lowering it in front of his nose
for him to sniff, and snapping it away out of his grasp before he could snap
his jaws around it, she skipped in front of him. She turned away from him, her
back to the large yellow house in which she lived, and did her best cricket
For a split second, Peyton made to chase the ball,
he’d been hounded, again, by the cruel
joke that she’d made. She’d not thrown the ball at all, and was looking at him
with a cheeky, childish grin on her face. Peyton sat down heavily, making to
sulk, and put his paw over his nose. This was all part of their game, and
they’d play it whenever he was let out to toilet by his faithful little madam.
She stepped calmly over the honey-
stage-crept up the garden path to the gate at the other end.
Leaning against the wooden gate, she paused. This gate
led to the woods behind her home, out to
and beyond, and somewhere at the other side of these woods lived the rest of
her family; her aunty and uncle with her two cousins, her other aunty and uncle
with the huge garden and bonfire dug-out. She absentmindedly picked at the peeling,
weatherproof blue paint on the gate as she waited for her puppy to get up and
start jumping around in circles, wanting the ball.
As if on cue, a golden head peeked over the
hiding-rangers at the front of the garden, and Peyton began to bounce. Rowan curled
her arm back behind her head, just as her daddy-long-legs had shown her, and
unfurled the ball from her arm with a flourish. A Catherine-wheel of spittle
and yellow felt, the ball flew through the air at a surprising speed for such a
small hand, and bounced hard off the wall above the kitchen window with a
satisfying, if hollow, thud.
Peyton watched and chased eagerly as his
toy careered around the garden, bouncing off
first the house, then the frame of the old wooden swing in the middle of the
lawn, before finally ricocheting down the alley at the side of the house. He
sprang after it and was back at Rowan’s side within moments for another turn.
With a sigh that expressed grief and pain beyond her
young years, Rowan patted the canine’s head.
“You know it’s only once, puppy, only once.” She said
to him sadly, bitterness seeping into her voice as she glared at the house. “Do
we’ve got to go back inside.”
Smart as a wolf, Peyton understood. It was always the same.
A short game, a quick burst of energy, then a ‘
piddle’ as his little madam used to call it, and they’d be back inside. He’d
have to sit in the kitchen on his cushion next to his water dish, and she’d get
to run up and down the house instead.
He went to the corner of the grass nearest the wall at
the back of the garden where he’d been trained to toilet, and went. Once
relieved, he joined Rowan as she entered the house again. The loud woman didn’t
seem to notice how long they were gone, or even that when they came in they
were out of breath. He couldn’t see her anywhere, but his tail remained between
his legs as they entered the house. He went straight to his tattered cushion in
the corner by the fridge, and sat down heavily, his big brown eyes watching his
little madam as she stood on the stool by the sink to wash her hands of his
drool before washing the dishes.
threw the door
open and came into the kitchen, a whirlwind of anger and noise, complaining
that Rowan was washing up too quietly and therefore could not possibly be doing
a proper job of it.