Escape from reality

As a young girl, Agnes would often daydream. Her vivid imagination opened up adventure-filled worlds on the Scottish moorlands with ease. There was so much to discover! So much to explore!

But Agnes wasn’t young anymore.

Now a widow with no income, the family’s future was uncertain, their hope all but gone. These days she needed her imagination more than ever; escaping into memories could sometimes quiet her grumbling stomach, quash her fears.

Agnes closed her eyes, searching. Settling on one memory in particular, she smiled, gently unfurling it like a precious treasure wrapped in the lightest, most delicate tissue paper.

There he was! Peter. Slouched in his faded green chair; collar undone, hair rumpled, and the hint of a beard on his face. The lingering aroma of dinner filled the air, mingled with smoke from the crackling fire. Their little house was warm, their bellies content.

Sitting cross-legged at his feet were Archie and Johanna, wide-eyed in anticipation of story time.

‘Da?’ Archie said hesitantly.

‘Aye, laddie?’

‘Will ye tell us of the time you and Mam met?’

‘Aye. She was a verra pretty lass,’ began Peter.

‘Still is, ye ken!’ Peter laughed, catching himself and glancing at Agnes. His laugh was low and deep – a sound she missed dearly.

Hearing Peter tell their story with such love filled her heart. Their bairns looking up at Da in wonder, eager for more.  She was safe here, not ready for reality just yet.

A booming knock yanked Agnes back to the harsh present. Someone at the door had other plans.

Opening her eyes, it all flooded in. There was no Peter, no chair, no furniture at all. The starkness of the empty house made it bigger somehow. Colder. The delicious smells so easily recalled moments earlier were replaced by those of dampness and mould.

The knock came again.

With a regretful sigh, Agnes opened the door.


The Police Returns List of destitute people in Glasgow, March 1841 recorded Widow Findlay at 95 Old Wynd with 4 children. This piece of flash fiction is based on that moment in her life – the day the police came to her door, finding her in a 14 x 10 house without furniture or bedclothes.

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