ON PARIS

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris ... then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

#WEPff December challenge - FOOTPRINTS - my #ff, On Top of the Mountain


It's the final WEP for 2019. It's been a great year and we've seen some great writing. Hoping there's some time in your hectic holiday or work schedule to do the rounds and read some pleasurable writing. Thanks to the team - Nilanjana Bose, Olga Godim and L.G. Keltner who've helped provide strength and purpose.



Here's my fun contribution to the December challenge.

On Top of the Mountain




On top of the mountain was where Ciara longed to be—leaving behind all her insecurities, her unhappiness, her confusion over the breakup with Tod. That was why in her backpack she’d tucked her special passport to tackle the road from France to Spain. The Camino de Santiago. She was following in the footprints of 2.5 million pilgrims who every year attempted to walk the 800 kilometre (497 miles). Each morning, she flew out of bed like a bird. Then for hours on end - trudge, trudge, trudge.

Whoever thought there’d be so many mountains, hills and valleys, especially at the beginning of the walk when most people were flabbily unfit? Her group all prodded their walking poles into the muddy ground, following the footprints of those in the lead. They took every opportunity to leave a token on every statue and shrine they passed, carefully placed rocks they’d brought from home and dropped them at the feet of saints like they were dropping their burdens. Of course they had to snap photograph after photograph on their smart phones, before whining and flopping beside the road, fanning themselves, pouring bottled water over their faces, until the guide finally called them out.

‘If you keep lagging, we’ll be camping beside the road in the rain instead of enjoying a drink, a nice hot bath and a comfy bed at the inn.’

That did the trick. Even Ciara smartened up her act.

The climb up this latest mountain had been hard in the drizzle, but Ciara had to admit, the view, or what she could see of it between the clouds, was Paradise.

She twirled round and round like the ballerina she was, fantasizing she was lead ballerina in Swan Lake, which she wasn't, then fell into a dizzy heap, like she was the frumpy ugly duckling everyone shunned.

‘Woops!’ She giggled, brushing off twigs and leaves, lying on her back, bathed in grey-blue sky. ‘Look on the bright side, girl!’

She was first.

She never got to be first.

She wasn’t even first with Tod. He’d chosen her because she looked like his first girlfriend. Ugh. That sure made her feel like the ugly duckling.

But today, despite Tod, was an important milestone in her life.

Her confusion was lifting like clouds on the mountain. Yes! She thumped the ground with her two fists. She came on this journey of self-discovery and she was self-discovering. Awesome. At thirty-four that wasn’t bad. Feeling smug, she sat up and leaned against the one and only scrappy tree and guzzled from her water bottle.

Now that her fitness had improved, she’d hurried ahead even though it was not the done thing. Truthfully, she was sick of the groups’ collective whining. Sure, the climb today had tested their fitness, but what did they expect? They were crossing the Pyrenees. All the way from St Jean Pied de Port in France to this splendid mountain range in Spain and then some. What a pilgrimage. What a way to start over. And it’d all be over in a month.

It was Roderick who riled her. There was always one. A pain from the beginning, whining about everything—the food, the weather, the lack of bottled water. He even complained when at one of the villages a kindly wine merchant provided red wine through one of the water taps, his contribution to the pilgrim walk. It’d helped them feel no pain through the rest of the day.

Still umpteen kilometres to go til they reached Santiago de Compostela. Could she put up with him that long? 

She was surprised their guide, Rafe, hadn’t sent him packing. Ah Rafe. She pictured his built body, muscled by years of climbing, and his piercing blue eyes, always focused on the beautiful landscape, never on her even though she did her best to attract him with her tight tops and lycra pants. She and Andrea, the other Brit, tried to outdo each other, rising earlier than everyone to hog the bathroom to apply their makeup. But Rafe was immune. She felt like stabbing him with her eyeliner when she caught him looking lovesick every time he glanced at Matthew, the royal marine from the U.S. Hot damn.

She dropped her water bottle beside the dozens of others abandoned by naughty walkers who’d never heard of climate change or that bottling water released 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually and took 17 million barrels of oil to produce a year’s supply. She sighed and looked into the haloes of whispy clouds and thought about how she was saving the planet by walking 800 kilometres instead of driving a car. 

She breathed in slowly, savouring the moment. Ah, first at last! Would Rafe be impressed? Even though she wasn’t a whiner, she was a lagger, and he was forever turning back to make sure she was still trudging onward. The look in his eyes accused her of lagging on purpose. She wouldn’t do that, would she?

Sniggering, she lost herself in murderous thoughts of Tod, but she wasn’t so lost she missed the grunting behind the scraggly bush where she’d propped herself.  

She carefully moved leaves aside and peered closer, afraid it was some weird Spanish animal of the four-footed species. Why think the worst? She was drawn to valleys made dark by black shadows. Why did she always see the dark side? ‘What the—?’ She suspended her deep psychological musings. Lying spreadeagled, a head wound gushing blood, was that whiner, Roderick.

‘Hey, Ciara what have you found?’ Rafe had arrived, the group behind him, a motley crew gasping, whining, mopping foreheads with kerchiefs.

She shook her head.

Life was a sick joke.

She never got to be first.

But look on the bright side, she thought. Roderick could have been some dangerous animal.




MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

WORD COUNT: 974

NCCO - Comments only. This was written specifically for WEP just for fun. Enjoy!

STATE YOUR FEEDBACK PREFERENCES

Please click on names at the end of my post and read more stories and encourage our faithful writers who turned up for the Christmas challenge!

Look what we have in store for 2020. Those of you who are lurking behind the scenes I hope you can find a challenge that floats your boat!
The next WEP challenge will be in February. I hope you'll join us for:


Looks delicious!

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!







50 comments:

  1. Just for fun is the best kind of writing. That was Mark Twain's way. Ciara will one day be the first ... in some lucky man's heart. :-)

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    1. I hope she will be first, but she's a bit of a nutter, don't you think?

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  2. Just for fun indeed.
    And I do wonder just what dangerous animal the whining Roderick did find.
    I love that Ciara has finally made a start on her life's journey too, obliterating some footprints, creating others...

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    1. I like the way she's trying to work through her insecurities. Not sure how far she's come, but a pilgrim walk is a good start for anyone.

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  3. This was definitely fun! Taking a journey on foot like that would be difficult but rewarding. Oh Roderick! At least the whiner might have a legitimate reason for complaining for once. And I do hope Ciara has better luck in love next time!

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    1. Yes, they're a couple of characters all right. Maybe they'll end up together.

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  4. I hope Ciara gets to be first with a special guy one day! This was great!

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  6. Honestly, I don't think Ciara seems like a much more likable individual than Roderick. She may generally keep her awful opinions of other people in her head, but eventually the truth comes out. This may be why she has trouble in romance. The guy she's with eventually sees just how horrid and judgmental she is.

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    1. I agree with you. I didn't try to make her likeble. She's nuts. So's Roderick.

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  7. I could almost feel my muscles ache and the total exhaustion I would feel on a long trek. Did you you do this? What a wonderful way to see a country!

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    1. I wish I could say I have done this walk. Been dreaming of it for years. Recently watched a BBC program on it and it inspired my story. And the country on the way is spectacular.

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  8. Hi,
    Poor Roderick. I don't know what hit him over the head but I am happy it didn't happened to Ciara. This was one of those times when being first would not have been the best thing that could have happened to her.
    Have a Merry Christmas and a happy crossover into 2020.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

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    1. That's true Pat. Maybe there was a wild animal up there. Look out!

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  9. An interesting tale of someone focused letting themselves grow, after a relationship gone wrong. Even if the main character is excessively judgmental about everyone around her, other than the tour guide.

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    1. She is, isn't she? Not a nice person, but maybe the walk will change her.

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  10. I found Ciara very real. I'd hate for the world to know my thoughts, how many times have I judged a situation only to find I was terribly wrong. And Roderick most likely tripped over his own feet. I'm sure she'll come first when it's her time. This sounds like a great first step. Lovely tale, thanks!
    And thank you for making my comeback so special. It's nice to have been missed. :)

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    1. It's so great to have you back this month, Renee. Glad you enjoyed my bit of fun, too.

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  11. Ouch! Such a blow on the head in the end. Who shot him, I wonder. That poor whiner Roderick - he didn't deserve to be shot.

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    1. Hey Olga, no one said anything about guns. I imagine he had an accident in his rush to be first! No one deserves to be shot. You're right.

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  12. Wonder what happened to Roderick. I could even feel sorry for him, she's so indifferent! But I'll bet he drove someone to extremes :D

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    1. It's a 'write you own adventure' ending Rebecca. I imagine a wild animal got him or he fell because he was in such a hurry to come first! But just as easily someone could have done for him!

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  13. Always to be second? No way. I have hopes for Ciara. Thanks for the "just for fun." That to me is always the best.

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  14. Just for fun produces the best kind of writing I think. Being first with a man is something to work towards, but being first to get to the top of a mountain? not so much. Glad she didn't get the gash on the head.

    The whole trek sounds fabulous, and you put me right there with your descriptions. I like the idea of the outward pilgrimage mirroring the inward journey to find herself. A serious core to the story wrapped in lightheartedness. Well done.

    Just a tiny error - US doesn't have royal marines, their naval infantry is called the Marine Corps. So Matthew can be either from UK (or another country where the Queen is technically the HOS) or just a plain marine. Btw the hot damn made me laugh.

    A great, fun flash to see the year out. Merry Christmas and the very best of 2020 to you and yours!

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    1. Thanks on the error of Royal Marines. I saw it on tv so thought it must be correct, right? Obviously not.

      Merry Christmas and a great 2020 to you too Nila! Thank you for all your support in 2019! You made the bad times good!

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    2. Thank you, Denise, that's the loveliest compliment - bad to good! <3

      The Royal Marine on tv could've been from Canada? The Queen is their HOS...Does Oz have marines? If yes, they'd be Royal too :)

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  15. Hi Denise to be tied in to a group like that sounds rather depressing ... but did a murder occur, perhaps a detective arrives to solve Roderick's problem and save Ciara ... sort of Santiago de Compostela crocodile ... not for me - but the programmes on the Via Francigena were very good - looking at the psychology of the group walking - cheers Hilary

    Certainly footprints are left along those routes ... fun story to read - H

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    1. I enjoyed both the programs, but preferred the Camino as I've always wanted to walk it. I found those two guys in the Road to Rome too into fitness and running ahead of the others, showing off. But I'd love to do the Via Francigena too, for the medieval hill towns. I'd want to linger longer!

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  16. Hi Denise. Thank you for this fun story. Indeed, the trail to Santiago di Compostella always holds different treasures for different people. Your character’s take is precious. Not very deep, but heart-felt and fun. No littering, please !
    Have a very Merry Christmas and thanks for all the hard work and commitment to make the WEP challenges possible. Enjoyed my year immensely with all you fellow bloggers. See you in 2020.

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    1. Thanks Susan. I hope they've improved the littering problem now. It is sad.

      It's a pleasure to have you writing to WEP. Glad that you'll continue in 2020!

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  17. She seems to be working hard on her on self-worth - still needs a bit of work. Poor Roderick! Like the nice touches of humour.

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  18. Clever and amusing piece - everyone seems to have issues. The photo made me think of rubbish on the Himalayas - and then you made the green message. The characters were visible in this piece. And when you mentioned Camino de Santiago, I remembered Martin Sheen's film 'The Way'. Happy festive season - from Solstice to New Year.

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    1. Haven’t seen that film Roland. Will check it out.

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  19. Awe... Ciara's NEVER first! I can almost see her rolling her eyes at Roderick.

    You know, there aren't too many chances to use the word "umpteenth". It's perfect for describing the long haul across the Pyrenees. :-D

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  20. This was fun and complex. I like your use of the prompt to inspire. Perhaps I'll walk and use a reusable bottle more to reduce my footprint.
    I hope Ciara is rewarded with better luck with men by the end of her journey.

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    1. Yes Toi, amongst the fun was a message. Glad you caught it.

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  21. I think Ciara would be the only one I would want to walk with. A surprise ending. Remind me never to whine too much. Happy Holidays and a Happy New Writing Year!

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    1. Thanks. Being stuck with people you don’t like isn’t much fun.

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  22. I find so much of myself in Ciara. Never first and always optimistic. Enjoyed it thoroughly.
    Sonia

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  23. She could be first if she doesn't tell him what she found...

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    1. Yes, maybe she could help him down the mountain with her foot!

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  24. That hike made me tired. Very deep and clever story and use of footprints.

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  25. Ciara sounds so real! Wonderful job on creating a realistic character with an interesting story arc! It sounds to me like Ciara's journey isn't really over yet.

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