by Lucy Powell
One grey and rainy afternoon I found a secret, hidden in the hedgerow of my back garden. It was a round thing, roughly about the size of my fist, and a light freckled brown colour. Buried as it was amongst the leaves and dirt, I almost missed it. It took scrambling on my hands and knees, and a faceful of leaves, to find it again. I had to. After all, everyone knew you didn’t just let secrets like that wander about, lost in other people’s back gardens. Anything could happen to it.
“Come on, I won’t tell,” I said, holding out my hand, my nails ringed with dirt. I tried to put on my best reassuring smile. “I can keep you safe.”
I suppose it was to comfort it. Secrets were like that. Not wanting to be seen, let alone be found before they were ready to come out. Mine certainly were. At least they had been, before I’d put them in a box I could now barely lift, and stuffed it under piles of clothes in my wardrobe.
I’d never thought to find one by accident.
When it finally let my hand close around it, I shoved it deep into the pocket of my battered yellow raincoat, and headed back inside. The weight of it wasn’t much, but it was heavy enough to remind me that it was there. I felt my heart rate quicken as I paced up the garden path, through the back doors, and into the kitchen.
As I turned the kettle on, idly watching the red light flicker and the rising steam curl and dissipate into the air, I wondered what had happened. Had carrying something like that around been too much, and they’d decided to let it go? Or perhaps, I thought as I clattered around – tea, mug, water, right yes – they hadn’t noticed. Maybe this person, whoever they were, had been weighed down by the burden of so many secrets; stone-like objects of various sizes and colours and weights, it made dropping one easy. It must have felt like they hadn’t lost anything at all.
Tea now in hand, I shrugged off my coat and let it hang on the back of the chair. Already, I saw how its weight made the fabric of my pocket bunch, as though it were trying to burst its way out through the seams. I turned around, and tried to ignore it. But now, it seemed that the weight of this secret had transferred from my pocket to sit at the back of my mind.
I knew I wanted to look at it again. The desire was like an itch I couldn’t scratch. Slowly, my coat started to slide off the corner of the chair.
“Secrets were like that. Not wanting to be seen, let alone be found before they were ready to come out. Mine certainly were.”
That was when the front door opened, and my heart skipped. Mel.
“Hello love!” she called down the hallway.
“Uh, hi!” I said. Frantic, I placed my tea on the table and dashed to put my coat away. But I had barely managed to move it off the chair before she turned the corner, bag in hand. She paused, and set it down on the floor, looking for a moment at the scene of mild disarray. Before her now stood myself, a table covered in tea from where it had spilled, and a scrunched up yellow coat, dangling precariously off the seat of the chair.
“What’s up?” she said. A bemused smile lifted the corners of her mouth.
“Nothing,” I replied, although I knew my answer gave me away instantly. I had never been very good at hiding things, especially not from her. “Tea?” I finished weakly, and turned quickly back around to face the kettle, my face burning.
No sooner had I moved did the sound of muffled stone hitting hard floor make me jump.
“What’s this?” she said. By the nature of her inquisitive tone, I already knew what she meant. In the time I had to spin around, I saw her holding my coat, fumbling with the zip on the pocket. My heart sank.
“It’s like you’ve got a brick in here!” she laughed, as her hand reached to prise it open before–
“Don’t!” I said, rushing to take the coat from her grasp. The suddenness of my movements surprised her, but she didn’t resist and promptly handed it back over. My heart hammered in my chest, and a brief feeling of nausea crawled its way up my throat.
Why was telling her I had a secret in my pocket so hard?
“I’ve–” I stuttered, as I anxiously fumbled the canary yellow material. There was a beat of silence, and then, I felt the words rush out in a torrent. “I’ve got a secret in my pocket. I found it in the hedgerow.”
This time, she took the coat from me, and opened the pocket in one deft movement.
However, what emerged was something altogether different. Instead of the brown, freckled stone that had lay in there mere moments before, in Mel’s hand now sat a small bird. It was the exact same colour as the secret had been.
Laughter bubbled its way up my throat; an infectious, hysterical laugh that loosed itself from my lips in one breathless “ha!”. Relief swept over me in waves as I looked up to Mel and back at the small bird that clearly wanted to fly. I felt as free as it did.
“Not anymore, it seems,” she said. “This secret looks like it was yours to tell.”
Lucy Powell | @lucy_violets
Lucy Powell is a writer and Renaissance literature enthusiast. She often spends too much time drinking tea or reading, and can quite often be found running about in plate armour more than is strictly necessary.