Atholl House

An old girls’ school.
Rundown and neglected.
Boards cover windows.
Rusted chains bar the gates.
Chiselled into that back gate are
the words Atholl House.

Eaten alive by time and dampness.
Dampness oozes from Atholl’s pores.
A stench of blood and corruption fills the air.
I pass Atholl House every day.
Every time I do, i walk quickly as I can.
I feel like running but my
heart is pumping fast enough already.

Nature has tried its best to rid the world
of Atholl House using ivy and dead leaves
to hide the skeletal frame and
cover its grounds.

Empty rooms and empty halls are all that remains.
The library is in the midst of decay.
War and Peace all in pieces on the library shelf
for there is no librarian to keep bookworms away.
No comfort to keep bookworms reading.
Big hole lets sky in as well as dampness.
Hole reflected in puddle on floor.

As i walk past the school I stop and
hold onto the bars of the gate.
Dead leaves skitter across
the desolate playground only movement.
Why would a valuable school like this
be left to turn sour with neglect?

As this thought turns in my head
my stomach turned.
No, it leapt.
Suddenly i felt so lonely
I could cry.
I looked around subconsciously
and found a girl looking at me.

Speckled with freckles and
spectacled with glasses.
Wide school hat and uniform.
Old fashioned.
Holes in her stockings and
skirt was more patch than skirt.
Mousey plaits hang
down both sides of her head.
Leather held tightly with two straps
served her as a school bag.

She noticed i was looking her way,
smiled uncertainly and said her name was Clare.
Clare lived in the village
and came to school at Atholl House.
‘I come here for schooling, maam’,
she said in a shy whispery voice.
‘I like school but people don’t like me.
Not teachers and not boys nor girls.
They stay away from me.
I read books instead.
I take books behind the waterfall
and read it there. Nobody can look at me.
Nobody can talk about me.
And I can’t hear them if they do’.

I knew it was not possible Clare went to school here.
I knew what condition Atholl House was in.
I asked her if she was waiting for a bus.
She said she was and had been waiting a long time.
Just when I was going to tell her buses had
not been using this route since the school closed
Clare clutched her schoolbag and vanished.
I am glad I met Clare.
She found a friend at last.
So did I.
No more quick walks past Atholl House.
Maybe next time I will bring a book.

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