Home > A Library of Quiet VOICES > Ciara’s Cloud by Martha Williams

Ciara’s Cloud by Martha Williams

“If he comes back here, I’ll-”

“We know, you said…”

“He’s a-”

“We know that too. You said.”

Ciara feels the movement grow within her like a balance that she dare not trust… because despite her parents’ fury, Frankie’s flight, and rancid words spewed from tight‑lipped mouths… her baby lives. Today, slumped in apathy, she does nothing more than drown herself in tea and wish for the clock to tick less loudly.

The familiar murmurs drift beneath her.

“If she doesn’t decide soon, it’ll be too late.”

“There’s nothing to decide.”

“There is. She’s our daughter.”

“She’s not my daughter. She did wrong, she has to live with it – but not under my roof.”

“No. No, love, she is our daughter…” The rustle of fabric, the adjustment of breath as fingers wrap around wrists and supplicant palms caress a chest. “We can hide this for her. Get rid of it and forget it. It can’t limit her life now.”

“It’s not her life to take.” There’s a pause, an inhalation. Perhaps he turns his palms up, trying to cup the lost words cascading from his thoughts. He loves her… but he can’t accept… and that’s not the answer…

“It is. Right now, it is.”


The slam of angry father, followed by her mother’s music: the clink of crockery chiming an uneven tempo broken by loud clanks that signal a battle’s end but a war only just begun.

Ciara stares at her feet until her eyes cloud and the day’s edges dim. She lets her mind drift as if by sliding into blurred existence, the clamours and needs that dwarf her might distil into something altogether more manageable.

The kitchen song is over and now the sitting room reverberates; the pianissimo hiss of a rug being straightened, the grunt of a sofa disturbed from its seat, the sigh of the duster.

Her mother had always set her sanity by empty filters, clean steps and timed eggs which as each child spewed forth meant escalating failure until thirty years of screaming had carved into her speech crevasses from which molten anger poured.

If you don’t… I don’t want to find… You mark my words, unless…

Unless, unless, unless… what?

Staccato wood under angry feet. The scent of polish, a squeak of a window and tendrils of cold air that reach with icy tongues to lick Ciara’s neck. But as Ciara breathes the breeze that once raged as an ocean gale, it is warmed and soothed and becomes her, soft and supine… bearing on its silent strength sweet dreams of white fleece passing under blue and the sun kissing her face while ivory gulls call, ‘keeeeeeeeeahhhh’ to speckled, flapping young.

And she wonders, even if her rug be crumpled and her steps filthy, beneath the storms of contempt and criticism could her child not float on clouds of calm? Even if chaotic, demanding and ill‑conceived… might her child not still be loved in aimless, rambling and glorious fashion? She thinks, this will be her daughter – then frowns and smiles together as she adjusts her mind: or her son.

Silence flows like summer air as Ciara rises to stand and smile. She will speak later.

For now, it is enough to know.

~ * ~

  1. Walter
    June 27, 2010 at 9:28 am

    What a wonderful sentiment to close, with all the bickering going on about her, Ciara maintains. And it resonates from the strong opening line, there is no doubt that she is a character of strong character, in spite of the “ill-conceived”. These qualities attract the reader to her, certainly someone I would read more of.

  2. June 27, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Walter, thank you so much – I’m so glad you like Ciara. I had some concerns about the ending and so I asked for input and Sam Rasnake suggested deleting the last sentence (‘Her baby will grow; chaotic, demanding and ill‑conceived… but loved in aimless, rambling and glorious fashion’), so I’ve combined his suggestion with your comment and jigged the words a bit. I really like Ciara so any comments and/or improvements are very gratefully received. And thanks again for this site, I love it. M

  3. deepee10
    June 28, 2010 at 9:19 am

    The kitchen song is over and now the sitting room reverberates..Martha this works for me in showing the crazy sad ball bouncing back and forth between extremes of love and indifference. I’ve never understood how anyone can react to such a situation without immediate compassion instead of struggle between rights. The struggle with “what is” only becomes clearer and less of a hassle when love is applied.Good story. Made me think.

  4. June 29, 2010 at 7:20 am

    D – you are so right about that – thank you for your inspiring comment, M.

  5. michelle elvy
    June 30, 2010 at 2:55 am

    Ah, the voices here sing – all of them! Not just through dialogue, but through the rustle of fabric and the supplicant hand on the chest. I can hear the slam of the angry father, the music of mother’s crockery… And the strong silence of Ciara, too, juxtaposed against that background noise. Really love the ending too – the way she rises to stand and smile. Ciara’s voice is also loud and clear in that one simple movement. Welcome to VOICES, Martha – so wonderful to hear you here!

  6. July 2, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Thanks, Michelle, this is a great site and I’m thrilled to be a small part of it. M

  7. drwasy
    July 7, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    Lots to love here, and folks above have remarked on so much. For me, what stands out are the auditory details. The pianissimo hiss, the sigh, the grunt, the keeeeaahhh that makes this scene feel immediate, makes me part of it. Really wonderful poetic stuff here. It’s nice to see you here. Peace…

  8. July 8, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Oh, thank you – the sound details were the reason I thought this piece might fit on Voices, I’m so glad you liked them. Thank you! M

  9. spudrph
    July 21, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Beyond gorgeous. Heartrending, and perfect. Loved it. Hard to imagine a word or a comma I’d use differently.

  10. July 22, 2010 at 3:10 am

    Wow, thank you!

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