The Trampoline by Winthrop Murray

18 February 2022  { General Fiction }

The Trampoline


Martin finished making up the bed with new flannel sheets and a 13.5 tog duvet he'd bought to keep out the damp highland air. He then put a hot water bottle under the covers; it would be needed even more tonight as Sarah wouldn't be there next to him. Back downstairs he went into the chilly kitchen and made a cup of hot milk with a little sugar and brandy as was his usual bedtime routine. Walking into the living room he folded himself on to the couch and gazed into the open fire, the room was beginning to warm up now. He sipped his hot drink and began to listen to a play on radio four all about international accountancy fraud; he was soon nodding off to sleep. His mind drifted back to the first time he'd met Sarah which eased him in to a most pleasant dream...


Martin and Sarah met at teacher training college in Edinburgh. He'd spotted her on the first day and was attracted by her mane of red curly hair and her infectious laugh and happy demeanour, but he was far too shy to speak to her. She had also noticed him on the first day and thought he was really handsome if a little serious; she tried to appear happy and self assured whenever he was around. Sarah couldn't understand why he hadn't spoken to her until that fateful day when they were learning the finer points of trampolining. The class were 'spotting' which means they were standing around the trampoline ready to safely catch anyone who got too near the edge. It was Martin's turn to do the bouncing; he was showing off and went for a back summersault which hurled him away from the centre towards the edge. The two muscular male students either side of Sarah stepped sideways so they didn't hurt themselves but she managed to catch his torso and lift the rest of his body off the canvas. This was the beginning of a lovely friendship that soon grew into a romantic relationship. From then on they were inseparable and successfully completed the course together three years later. Sarah found work almost immediately whereas Martin struggled, they moved into a run down rented flat together. They bumbled along quite nicely; Sarah busy with her work; while between interviews Martin worked on restoring an old land rover. He had never introduced Sarah to his parents but as the relationship progressed and thoughts of marriage came into his head he decided to make formal introductions at the family home in the Scottish borders...   


Martin was woken up by some static on the radio which turned out to be the first sign of an incoming blizzard. He was a little chilly so he put some more wood on the fire and found a woolly blanket to snuggle under. Turning off the radio he put on a little CD player and settled back listening to some Christmas music. He returned to his reverie...


Sarah couldn't believe it when they drove up the long drive to Martin's family home; the driveway was lined by tall poplars and continued with a long yew hedge as they neared the house. They rounded the final corner and Sarah gasped, it looked more like a castle.


"I had no idea they lived in such a big house, are you landed gentry or something?" She said laughing.


"Well it's funny you should say that, my father is a Viscount so I suppose one day I'll be one day as well." 


"Good grief," she said, eying him suspiciously not knowing if it was a joke or not.


They arrived in front of the enormous facade and stepped out onto the wide cinder driveway. Martin was in his ubiquitous blue jeans and jumper and Sarah wore a floaty floral dress and boots; her wild red hair danced in the breeze. She stood staring at the house admiring the statues, the gargoyles and the elaborate chimney pots, she suddenly felt nervous. They were welcomed by Martin's mum and dad, Viscount and Viscountess McGrath. Sarah gave his mum a big hug; it felt like hugging an unresponsive ironing board. The Viscountess smiled and gave a rather curt "How charming." The Viscount seemed a little more receptive to the hug; his cheeks flushed and he jiggled with pleasure, clearly a man starved of physical contact.


They all climbed up the carved wooden staircase and went into the main living room on the third floor. The conversation flowed quite easily, mainly between Sarah and Martin's dad with the odd comment from the Viscountess. Sarah inspected the numerous portraits of family members throughout the ages, an observer would note that they appeared to glare at her but she seemed totally oblivious.


The young couple looked out of the window and admired the beautiful views. Martin explained where the land boundaries were; Sarah was mesmerised and said "It's just so beautiful. It reminds me of the view from my granny's council flat; it's on the twentieth floor of McDonald tower in Glasgow. She's got the top corner flat and the views are amazing." Sarah didn't see the raised eyebrows exchanged between Martin's father and mother, but Martin did.


The Viscount spoke to Sarah, "Perhaps you'd like Lady McGrath to show you round the gardens?"

"Oh that would be lovely, where do I find her?" asked Sarah


"Well actually that's me," added the Viscountess smiling.


"Ah I'm so sorry I'm getting confused with the different names and titles."

"That's perfectly fine, I'll explain it all as we walk round the gardens" replied Martin's mum.


The two ladies left the room and set off for the formal garden. The Viscount and Martin continued their conversation about the estate but he was dying to know what his dad thought of Sarah, so he asked.


"Oh she's charming," he answered but continued, "I would ask that if are thinking of marrying her you think very carefully, I presume that's why you came?"


"Yes but I'm pretty sure she's the one and we'll be fine," Martin said, trying to hide his annoyance.


"She’s been brought up in different circles and would have to change a lot to fit in here, I fear the role of Viscountess and all it entails may make her unhappy." Martin tried to hold in his anger, Sarah had taught him a lot over the last few years and he didn't want the day to follow the usual pattern with him storming out.


He stepped away from his father and gazed out of the window where he could see the two figures walking across the neatly manicured lawn. He watched them strolling side by side and his unruly mind mused that if they were potatoes, mother would be a salty McDonald's fry all thin and sharp and Sarah would be a potato wedge all luscious and succulent. As he watched, Sarah took off her boots and walked barefoot, letting the boots swing down from one arm, every few steps she broke into a little skip with the shear enjoyment of life. She kept looking up to the Viscountess and smiled and his mother seemed to be smiling back. He loved Sarah so much; the fact that she'd obviously stopped by the toilet on the way down to the gardens and accidentally tucked the back of her floaty dress into her pants just made him love her even more.


There were a few more uncomfortable conversations between Martin and his parents during the day, so as the light was fading he nipped out for a stroll where he could be on his own; alone with his thoughts. He went from being very angry to thinking that maybe they had a point, was it fair to Sarah? It would be like tethering down a firework, forcing a nudist to wear underpants or wrapping a tight elastic band around a song bird's beak, as he walked he wilfully fell headlong into a pile of clumsy analogies... 


After waking himself up with one of his own snores, Martin dampened down the fire, locked the cottage doors and slowly trudged upstairs to Bedfordshire. The warm mattress with the fresh lavender smelling sheets was very comfortable and he soon fell into a deep sleep, again dreaming about his Sarah.


After meeting his parents Sarah and Martin had gone back to their usual domestic routine. Then one day out of the blue, in a rather unromantic conversation he talked to Sarah about marriage; the role of a Viscount and the fact that one day he would inherit his father's estate and their lives would change completely. He explained his intention of asking her to marry him but wanted her to think it through first. They were both incredibly practical and sensible so they decided to take a few days to think about it. Sarah was off for a week's course in Edinburgh so Martin decided to go to his new holiday home to do a few jobs there. They would meet up at the cottage the following weekend and make any decisions then...


At this point in his dream he woke up. He knew with total clarity that she was the one for him and he was terrified of losing her. Realising he'd handled it all wrong he went straight out into the storm and climbed the hill to get a mobile signal. The snow and sleet battered him around in the darkness, until he reached the rock where he knew his phone would work, he hunched down behind the granite boulder to find what little shelter he could. He didn't want to wake Sarah so he sent a text explaining everything; he loved her and would happily give up everything so they could be together. He trudged down the hill in his Wellington boots and mac and climbed back in to the still warm bed knowing that she would soon wake up and read how much he loved her.


Unknown to Martin, Sarah had already decided she would marry him whatever the consequences. She’d left the course a day early and was driving up the A9 in the dark to see him; she couldn't bear to be apart for another moment. She was driving her new Toyota Land cruiser; it was a present from Martin who said he wanted her to be safe. She thought the gift was too much and really loved her 2CV but had eventually accepted it as long as she could keep her own car for local driving. 


Sarah had driven for a few hours in the dark and was getting tired, but she rallied as she neared the cottage turnoff and was in a ridiculously happy mood. Imagining she was in one of those Christmas movies as she drove up to see him, she sang at the top of her voice along with the Christmas songs on the car stereo, she did harmonies and everything. 


Sarah turned off the road on to the long winding track up to the cottage. She wasn't used to her new car and was struggling a little with the gears; as the storm intensified and the snow flurries thickened. She reached the part where the track had previously been damaged by a small landslide and felt the wheels sliding underneath her. Unfortunately it was an unfamiliar car and she turned the steering wheel too sharply and hit the accelerator too fiercely, the car overturned and bounced down the slope. It bounced as Martin had bounced on the trampoline that first day, it went bonnet onto wheels and wheels on to bonnet and so on until it hit a rocky outcrop and burst into flames. Martin wasn't there to catch her; Sarah had no chance.


Martin woke up with heart beating fast; he'd heard several loud bangs which he presumed was rolling thunder and then a bright flash, just lightning he thought rolling over and going back to sleep. He returned to a wonderful dream all about Sarah and their future lives together. The Gods allowed him to enjoy his dream in blissful ignorance until the dawn brought the awful truth; his life was changed forever.



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