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Sometimes, the best way to share a thought or idea is through story.

People Are Never Who You Think They Are

People Are Never Who You Think They Are

Madrona cast her eye around. He’d been there since they’d started work in the park. This’d be their last day and so, she was hoping she’d see him. But she’d better get to work. The attendant wasn’t always in the best of moods.

She was glad to be able to get onto this work assignment. Anything would be better than staying inside the prison. Maddie had gotten into a fight two days ago. It had been bloody, but because she clearly hadn’t started it, they hadn’t taken away her privilege of the work assignment—thankfully. A few other prisoners had spoken up on her behalf.

Life inside Photo by Carles Rabada on Unsplash

Maddie was just defending another woman who clearly didn’t know the ropes, so to speak. “If you’re gonna survive inside, you gotta know the rules of the game and always, always show respect to your fellow inmates. Don’t look at anyone. And trust no one,” Maddie had stressed with her afterwards.

“Hey Maddie, have you got any extra trowels?” Maddie looked up and gave Pettie a thumb’s up. “Thanks. I can’t seem to find mine.”

“Yeah, I’ve got a couple extra here.”

“Oh, great. It’s looking really great now, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. “Many hands make light work, my nan used to always say,” Maddie said. Pettie wasn’t on the work assignment, but she worked with the nursery who was sponsoring the work at the park. Before she put her head down to work, Maddie quickly cast her eye around to see if he was around. And across, by the fountain, she saw him pushing his trolley towards the benches. She smiled, relieved he was here.

Maddie worked steadily, but as soon as the time struck 10:30, she hurriedly put everything away before making her was across to see him. She’d only learned his full name a couple of days ago—Spencer Bartholomew Crispin. Apparently, he was named after his father who’d fought in the first world war, someone whom Spencer held in very high regard. And the Bartholomew was from great grandfather who’d done the family proud in some manner. Spencer hadn’t elaborated on that just yet. But she loved listening to the stories he’d tell.

They’d been working there for almost a few months. The nursery was essentially refurbishing a place where there used to be a store. Maddie thinks someone said it was once an old Woolworth’s store.

When she first started working here, that’s when she’d met him. He always wore a hat, like men used to wear in the old days. It’d fallen out of the trolley he always pushed. She’d picked it up and given it back to him. He used to proudly say all his worldly possessions were in that trolley. From that moment, they’d become fast friends.

At her dinner break, she’d always go and sit down by him and he’d tell her stories. They’d be spell-binding, speaking sometimes of the well-to do folks back in England, from where he obviously must’ve come. There’d be stories to of an old fisherman whose life had transformed when one of the daughters of a lord had fallen in love him and she with her. Every day she came to work at the park, Maddie would look forward to meeting him. Although, he seemed to be limping a bit just now. Maddie hoped he was okay. She’ll have to ask him.

“Hey there,” she said as she walked over to his bench. She through herself down onto the bench and gave him a small peck on his cheek. “What’s wrong with your leg, old man?” He smiled.

“Oh, it’s nothing, my sweetie. Just a bit of old age. We can’t last forever can we?”

“Well, no. But you’re all right, aren’t you?” He nodded his head, a smile on his face.

“I think this is our last day here. I’m not sure, but I heard one of the women who works for the nursery saying so.” She sat down and started to eat her sandwich.

“I’ll be sorry to see you go. Still, like everything, I’m afraid nothing lasts forever. Not even us.”

“Yeah, I know, but …,” Maddie said.

“No buts about it, my girl. Besides, as they always say. It’s always darkest before the dawn. Never forget.” Maddie offered him a cookie which he gracefully accepted.

“I’m not going to be able to see you any more,” Maddie said, putting her head down. She looked up at him, sorrow in her eyes. “And I’ll only get out in a few months or so.”

“Well, the most important thing is that you’re getting put soon. We met one another and now we can both enjoy knowing we have a loyal friend. I thank you again for sticking up for me when those young fellows were making my life a misery. I’ll never forget.”

“O, it wasn’t a problem. Believe me, I’ve seen worse,” she said, rolling her eyes. “They had no right.”

“I’ve always known the importance of knowing you have a friend on whom you can count to be there when you need them. I know, in my heart I can count on you.”

“Don’t you worry about that,” she said, her hand gesticulating with assurance and determination. “The minute I get out, I’ll get a job and wherever I live, you’ll be more than welcome there, I can tell you that! Then, if you want to come to the park here, you can, but then you can go home afterwards because you’ll have a home!” Maddie said, beaming, her hands clasped together. Spencer smiled at her confidence. “And I’ll work to get a job somehow. I’m not saying it’ll be all fancy living or anything like that. But I’m determined to try.”

“That’s wonderful. Life is full of second chances. If we look, we’ll always find them.” Maddie nodded her head.

“Well, for me, I’ll never steal anything again. I used to make a living from that,” she said, laughing. “And I’m off the drugs, now. I’m sure of it. Thanks to you. When you told me about your grandfather working in that mine and what he put up with, I thought, no, I can do it.”

“Well, we can look back at our forebears and take a bit of the strength their lives left behind. Oh, I have no concerns that can do anything, once you make up your mind.”

“No question. Anyway, I better get back to work. I’ll pop by before we go.” She held his hands, her eyes sparkling and fixed on him. He smiled again.

“You better get going, you silly girl.” She through her things in the bin and ran off to finish her work.

When they got done, Maddie looked up, but couldn’t see Spencer. She put everything away, ready to be put back onto the truck. Then looking up again, she spotted him coming out of the toilets. She hastened over to the bench and sat down next to Spencer.

“Well, that’s it for us.” Looking over the grounds, she smiled. “It looks so beautiful, now. Mirabelle took a photograph of it before we started and then now, again, and it’s miraculous.”

“Well, I was sold as soon as you put these benches here,” he said, patting the bench.

“Yeah, it’s like night and day. It’s hard to believe the change.”

“You should all be proud of yourselves.” She smiled brightly at him.

Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash

“And I just learned there’s another place where we’re going to be working. It’s on the other side of town, though.”

“The time you have left will go by like that.” He snapped his fingers, smiling. Maddie smiled, but then her face became serious.

“But I won’t be able to see you. And I’m not sure, but will you be around in these parts when I get out?” He shrugged his shoulders.

“Who know’s what’s going to happen. As I said to you, what matters is we know one another now. What’s in the past doesn’t matter and frankly, what lies in the future doesn’t matter much to me either. Right now, I’m sitting in beautiful park chatting with one of my dearest friends, for you are.” Maddie put her head down. “Now, none of that.” She raised her head and he smiled. “You’re precious and you have so much yet to give to the world. I know that.”

“Come on Maddie. We’ve gotta get going,” one of the guards said, calling from the bus.

“Well, I gotta go now. Oh, it was the most wonderful gift I was given when I met you.” She gave Spencer a long hug. “I’ll never forget you. Thank you,” she said as she got up and then started to walk away. Maddie turned around again and gave him another wave, blowing him a kiss and then turned around and jogged to the bus.

Maddie ran her hand along the curtain. It was nothing special, but it was furnished and she at least had a roof over her head. She’d contacted numerous places to ensure she had a place when she left the prison. This one was the only one that got back to her. It was good, as it seemed they were in the business of providing at least a temporary home once someone left prison.

The goal was to see if she could find Spencer today. Although, who knew if she’d have any luck. Later, she set out, catching the bus across town to the park where she first met Spencer.

“Thanks,” she said to the bus driver, who’d clearly chosen well when deciding to go into public service. One the first bus she’d taken, the bus driver had clearly not chosen well. But Maddie shrugged her shoulders. Didn’t matter anyway. She walked to the park and headed over to the bench where Spencer always sat. She looked around, but no Spencer.

Image by Sharon Ang from Pixabay.

Maddie sat down on the bench and took out the books she was reading. She decided she might as well wait around for an hour or so because he might have just stepped away.

She had no luck on the first day and tried again on the next. But Spencer was also a no-show on that day.

“Excuse me,” she heard from behind as she walked away from the park bench. Maddie turned around and she saw a middle-aged woman walking and then running and then walking towards her. Maddie smiled.

“Yes. What can I do for you?” The woman caught up to her and then took a breath.

“Oh, my goodness. I’m not used to that much exercise,” she said, laughing. She was only a little over weight, but was obviously not in the habit of jogging.

“No worries. How can I help you?”

“Just to explain who I am. I used to watch you chatting with Spencer. I work in the shop over there.” She pointed across the street. “It’s a café and Spencer used to come over every now and then and use our facilities, so to speak. Anyway, I saw you here yesterday and now today and, well, I just wanted to tell you why he’s not here.”

“Oh, my goodness. Don’t tell me …”

“Yeah. I’m so sorry to say he passed a few weeks ago actually. You obviously were a good friend. You always used to chat with him.” Maddie lowered her head.

“O, that’s too bad, y’know. I was so hoping he’d still be okay.”

“I know. It’s always horrible to learn about things like that. He was such a fine man.”

“I know. He was full of stories and it always seemed so sad he was homeless.”

“Well, in the winter, he used to stay at the mission on Hanover Street. And when he came to the café, we’d always give him a cup of tea and a sandwich. But yeah. Hard times ‘n all.”

“Yeah, well thanks for letting me know.” Maddie headed home, her mind awash with memories of her friend. Maybe she’d try to find where he was buried and at least leave some nice flowers. She could secretly plant some crocus bulbs. He’d like that, she was sure.

Over the next few weeks, Maddie spent her time looking for work. She went to the library to prepare and print her resumé. She just decided to give it in to as many places she could find. One of them was bound to be looking for a worker.

Her family had always been on social assistance. It had always become a way of life. But she couldn’t wait to get off it. All that chatting with Spencer, it made her feel there was more she wanted to give to the world—more she could give to the world.

On Friday, she went to the post office to pick up her post. In the pile of mail, one seemed official-looking, but the other one was obviously from one of the places where she’d applied for work.

When she got home, Maddie, buoyed by hope, ripped open the letter from the potential employer. But the minute she spotted those well worn words, “We regret to inform you …”, there was little reason to continue. Maybe out of spite, she made sure to rip it into pieces before throwing it into the recycling.

“Doesn’t matter,” she said to herself. Spencer always used to say, it’s darkest before the dawn.”

She threw herself onto the sofa and opened the other letter she’d received. Reading it through, her heart began to resound in her ear, suddenly the world closing in on her. She read aloud: “I trust this letter finds you well. I am reaching out in my capacity as the Executor of the estate of Spencer Bartholomew Crispin. Following the fulfilment of all legal and financial obligations of the estate, it is now time to proceed with the distribution of remaining funds to the designated beneficiaries as per the deceased last will and testament.

Distribution Details

Total Funds Remaining in Estate: $113,478,012.83

Your Entitled Share: $1,000,000”

It went on about the distribution and how the funds would be transferred to her. But Maddie was in utter disbelief. Spencer was homeless. How could he have been worth so much money. She looked on the letter for contact information. This can’t be for real.

It had to be someone having a bit of fun at her expense. Maddie found the contact information and rang the number, not really sure of what to expect.

“Hello,” Maddie said. “Hi, my name’s Madrona Sykes. Everyone just calls me Maddie.” She laughed nervously. “Um. I think I just received a letter from Spencer Crispin’s estate and, I guess, I’m just ringing to see if this is for real. I’m not sure if you’d know anything about that. You’re Malcolm Digby,” she said, looking on the letter for the name of the Executor of the Estate.

“O yes. I’m Malcolm Digby and yes, I’m the executor of Mr. Crispin’s estate. Your question is more than understandable. I’m also Mr. Crispin’s lawyer and he made the changes to his Will only last month or so. But no, the letter you received is indeed genuine.”

“O, I see. I mean, I just don’t understand. I met him a few months ago and I thought he was homeless. And I just …”

“Yes. Sorry to interrupt. But in a way, he was homeless. For him, though, it was by choice. His business is still doing exceptionally well. He was in IT support and technology and I guess he’d had enough of it. He happily handed things over to his children and just decided he wanted to experience another part of life. He’d always remark on how it’s so common to miss the sheer richness of life from 40 floors up. So, in the latter part of his life, that’s what he was determined to experience and savour, I dare say.”

“Sorry. I’m at a loss for words. Y’know, it’s like everything’s upside down. Things for me aren’t in place anymore.” Maddie laughed nervously. “Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean I’m not beyond grateful. It’s just difficult to understand.”

“Well, I’m not surprised it was a shock. But there’s no question you made an impression on him, given his desire to add you to his will.”

“Yes, thank you so much. He was a beautiful person. No question. Thank you very much, sir. Good Bye.” Maddie put the phone down and picked up the letter and closed her eyes, still not able to comprehend.

Over the next few months, Maddie spent some of the time not always worrying about being able to afford things. Not that she went on a spending spree. It was more a matter of not always saying ‘no’ to things such as fresh vegetables which she could now afford. She’d always tended to avoid that section of the grocery.

She’d done as would be expected, sharing her new wealth with her family and friends. Maddie also made an effort to find Spencer’s grave, not to mention, secretly planting a few crocus bulbs.

And last night, Maddie’d had an epiphany. It seemed impossible to conceive of it as being possible. Still, she’d begun looking through the programmes at university. Fancy a member of her family actually going to university. Even finishing high school was an achievement. But she would attend adult basic education classes to get the grades to finish her high school and than apply to university. Her plan was to go into social work.

She got off the bus. “Thanks,” she said to the bus driver. Walking to the park she was keenly looking for it. It was only when she got a little closer that she could she see it, there, front and centre—the Spencer B. Crispin Memorial Park. She’d written myriad letters making the suggestion they name the park after him. Maddie hadn’t known it, but he’d been a big supporter to the community against homelessness and their various other efforts over the years. So, it wasn’t that difficult a sell. Afterwards, she’d given them a big donation, sort of a thank you. It was the least she could do.

Maddie stood there looking at the sign, thinking. People are often never who you think they are. Despite his riches, Spencer spent the latter part of his life giving honour to the men and women who lack what so many take for granted—a home. She clasped her hands together, “I’ll do you proud Spencer Bartholomew Crispin. I promise.”

Sometimes It’s Just a Matter of Waiting

Sometimes It’s Just a Matter of Waiting

Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash.

Misty gazed at the open road ahead of her thinking how it may well be very different for her now she was out of work. It’ll remain to be seen how much of an “open road” lay ahead for her. She still felt irritated by that man. But for better or for for worse, it was all over. She drove along, finding a little joy in the empty road. It was Thanksgiving weekend and so everyone who had some place to go was no doubt already there. She shifted a little, getting a little more comfortable in her seat.

Misty was sure most of the people at the office where she worked probably thought she was mad. Although, no one could say he didn’t have it coming. The writing was on the wall. Anyone with eyes to see would know she and her boss were not on the same page, as it were. They weren’t even in the same book, never mind the page.

So, her actions weren’t so surprising. Misty smiled when she thought of what she’d called him—a stuck up loudmouth with more money than sense. She’d explained in detail why he was being such a fool and before he could sack her, she’d quit. She was livid. It was the first time in her life she’d ever said anything like that. Misty thought, it may be the first time she’d really ever stood up for herself. And boy, did she do a good job. Sure, she hadn’t a clue what she was going to do now that she was out of work. But there was no sense worrying about it now.

Misty had tended to be quiet and unobtrusive. Everyone had always called her the little mouse in the corner. That’s where her little spot was located, all of them with their own space separated by a sea of dividers in a windowless room. The place had no heart. Besides, folks had always told her she was wasted there. Well, enough of it all.

Spotting a gravel road going off to the left, Misty thought, why not explore a little. There were little spots of grass here and there on the edge and so she knew it wasn’t a well-travelled road. It was beautiful, the trees were fairly dense, some spruce, some larch and bits and bobs of everything else.

Image by Olavi Anttila from Pixabay

She was lost amidst the beauty of the woods with its motley shades of green, stumps of trees partially shrouded with a mantle of moss. Through the trees she could see the sun shining on what must be a lovely meadow.

Just up ahead, she spotted a car off to the side. Seemed strange that anyone should be stopped along the road. Misty hadn’t expected to see anyone. Pulling in behind the car, she could see there was a driver. Guessing at the hat, it was likely an older gentleman. “Hello, sir?” The man was just staring ahead and only after she repeated her words, did he notice her.

“Oh, sorry, my dear. I didn’t quite catch what you were saying.”

“That’s all right. I just wanted to make sure everything was okay. You’re stopped and so I just wasn’t sure.” He smiled at her, his eyes red and glazed.

“Not to worry, my dear.” She looked into the woods, but she wasn’t quite sure why he was there.

“I don’t mean to pry, but is there anything with which I could help you? I there something wrong with your car. I might be able to help you.”

“O, no dear.” He paused for a moment and then looked up at her. “It’s no matter. I’d planned to go to the meadow … you can probably see it just on the other side of the trees.” he said, point towards it. “There used to be more of a pathway there, years ago. More people used to use it before.”

“Yeah, so it’s kinda grown in more,” she said, looking at the woods.

“I was going to take these,” he said, showing her the bouquet of flowers.

“O, they’re beautiful. May I ask what’s the occasion?” she said, smiling at him. He looked at her and then quickly glanced away, like he was somehow ashamed or embarrassed about something.

“Well, it’s nothing. I was going to lay then at the big rock.” He looked towards the meadow. “There it is,” he said, pointing. “It’s not easy to maybe see from here, but that’s where I used to always meet Abigail.” His eyes sparkled as he told Misty.

“Who’s Abigail?” Misty said, even though, with heavy heart, she was fairly sure she knew who she was. “Is she your wife?” He nodded and smiled, his eyes moistened.

“Yes. Yes. Well, was.” He looked down for a moment, wiping his eyes. “When we were first courting, that was always a favourite place. She passed away just this past August.”

‘O, I’m so sorry for your loss.,” Misty said, her eyes meeting his. “So, you were going to take the flowers and place them near the rock where you used to meet the love of your life.” He nodded, looking away. “Hey, it may not be as meaningful, but why don’t you let me take the flowers to the rock in the meadow?” He looked at Misty and then turned to look at the meadow. “I can at least place them there in Abigail’s memory.” He looked again at Misty. She could see he was giving it some thought.

“Well, okay, if you don’t mind. It’d be most kind of you.”

“It’d entirely be my pleasure. I even have my hiking stick in my car and that should help me get through any tangles I might find. She went back to her car and grabbed her hiking stick. Coming back, he’d gotten out of his car. He was a tall fellow, but he’d clearly dressed for the occasion. “My, don’t you look smart. Abigail would be most pleased.” He smiled, bashfully lowering his head with a touch of a smile.

“Here are the flowers. You take care going in there.”

“Not to worry. I’m a volunteer with the Wilderness Rescue Team and so I know more than enough about being careful,” she said, smiling at him.

“Just so you do.” She took the flowers, wading into the brush. Walking, Misty realised she could actually make out where the path to the meadow had once been. So, that made things a little easier. At one point, she turned around and waved to him, realising she hadn’t even introduced herself and asked his name. Then she thought how names aren’t always as important as many might think. Making it to the meadow, it opened into an expanse of wildflowers interspersed with an array of bushes, some floral, others not.

After the day she’s had, being in the meadow was like a moment in heaven. She raised her head to the sky and twirled around. She could see what drew everyone to this place. Giggling, she made her way to the rock where budding love had blossomed however many decades ago. There was a little overhang on the rock where she placed the flowers. She took out her phone and took a photograph so she could show him. He’d be pleased.

When she made it back to the road, he was waiting. She smiled at him.

“O, that’s a beautiful spot,” she said.

“Yes indeed. It was a very popular spot decades ago,” he said.

“And here,” Misty said, taking out her phone. “I took a photograph for you,” she said showing it to him. He took the phone, smiling, eyes glazing over.

“Thank you so very, very much. My Abigail will be so very pleased. We loved this place,” he said squinting as he looked up into the sky, sunshine cascading down. “Thank you.”

“Come here,” she said, opening her arms to give him a hug. “You can’t believe what a horrible day this was before I met you. But y’know, if it hadn’t been so horrible, I wouldn’t have been here to meet you and give you a hand. So, thank you for all you’ve done for me. Funny the way the world works.”

“That’s why we never do know in the end. Sometimes it’s just a matter of waiting and the most unpleasant of days will yet transform.”

Finding the Silver-Lining

Finding the Silver-Lining

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

Sidney roughly folded the clothes, throwing them into his bag. He didn’t have a lot of time. Charlie said he could help him move, but he’d told him not to bother. His head shot up when he heard the sound of a car on gravel. Gently pushing back the curtain, he realised it was just the neighbour pulling into their driveway.

Carefully, he wrapped a few photographs he wanted to keep, placing them in the side-pockets. She’d not miss them anyway, likely wouldn’t even notice they’re gone. He zipped up the bag and put it on the bed next to the other things he wanted to take.

Frannie had gone out to a restaurant with some friends, so he’d decided to make his move as soon as she’d left. Quickly checking his watch, he knew she’d be home soon. He’d better get moving.

Scanning around the room to see if there was anything, his eyes rested on a photograph Charlie must’ve taken of them. Sid picked it up, looking at the laughing faces. His eyes moistened. If he remembered correctly, it was taken soon after they’d first been married.

Where were they, he thought. He closed his eyes tightly, hoping to urge the memory. Then, it came back to him and he smiled. Yes, he distantly remembered the day. He seemed to recall they’d been on a camping trip in British Columbia. They’d gone with Frannie’s brother, Charlie and his wife. It’d been wonderful.

He stared at the photograph, his mind roaming the memories regarding his life with Frannie. Most would’ve considered them the perfect couple—beautiful home, two cars, annual vacation. They even had a dog for a while, but she’d passed away a year ago or so. Sid had been in banking until he’d packed it all in about a decade ago for a new life working as a Park Ranger. Commuting every day, he loved where he now worked.

Frannie was still in banking. She’d just been promoted in the bank where she worked. downtown. Their friends had laughed at their various work places, commenting how they couldn’t be more disparate. Still, it hadn’t been a problem.

When they lost their second baby, everything had changed though. It was another miscarriage. Sid had grieved the loss, but recognised maybe it just wasn’t to be for them. But for Frannie, it was different.

It was like someone had flipped a switch. He’d tried to empathise, as it was no doubt hard for her. But she’d just become angry and there was no hope to try to explain anything. Suddenly, there was no end to the hateful comments she’d make about him. It seemed like nothing he could do was right any more. He flinched when he thought of her words.

You’re such a loser. You’ve always been a loser. There’ll never be any hope for you. Why do you bother?” Then he remembered what she said about his father, that Sid was exactly like his father—had always been. “You’re no good….” It’d been a year of unrelenting abuse. He closed his eyes, a hollow feeling growing within.

As far as Frannie was concerned, he was never enough of anything. Sid shoved a photograph of him accepting another award from the city into the side of his bag. He’d been damned proud of the work he’d done and he wasn’t about to leave it.

And it was when she threw the little solid wood award he’d been given for organising the tree-planting that he knew. He can’t take this any more. Still, he looked at the photograph. Maybe there’d be a way to get her to understand.

Sid heard the clock chiming, jarred from his reminiscing. Coming downstairs, he was alerted to headlights in the driveway. Hurriedly, he grabbed the two bags, hoisting them onto his back and left the bedroom. He thought was too late. He’d thought for sure he had until nine. That’s when she always left the restaurant.

Maybe he could dart out the back door. Suddenly, the front door opened and he thought, Christ, this is all he needs now. He braced himself, holding his breath, his body tense. In walked Charlie.

“G0d, I thought it was your sister.”

“No, man. I thought I’d come around to see if you needed any help. You said you were likely going to do it tonight.” He took one of the bags from Sid. “How are you?”

“All right, I guess. I confess I’m wondering if I’m over-reacting.”

“No, geez. I heard what she was saying to you a couple of days ago. She doesn’t realise I heard, but she’s completely flipped. As I said, why should you put up with it? You’re too soft. I mean, she seriously needs help. It’s been close to a year and we both know from where this is coming.” Sid looked at him. “I mean it. What she said to you was harsh, man. I mean, you’ve got a heart of gold. But I wouldn’t put up with it. I think everything from when we were growing up has come home to roost for her. I really don’t know. I mean it was bad, but geez, I survived. Well, I shouldn’t say that. Everyone deals with things their own way. Anyway. Come on, we better get going.”

“Yeah,” Sid said as he looked around.

“Don’t worry. You’d know best, but it’s not like it’s forever. She just needs to have some time to herself, I think.” Charlie opened the front door. “Did you leave her a note?”

“Yeah. I put it on her pillow.”

“Good. Come on. I’ll take this one in my car and I’ll meet you at home.”

“Yeah. For sure. Thanks, man.

“Not a problem.”

Frannie opened unlocked the door. Sid must’ve gone somewhere since his car was gone. She wishes he’d tell her he was going somewhere. He never tells her anything. Throwing her things onto the chair by the door, Frannie went into the kitchen to check if anyone had rung the line in the house.

Anyway, she was tired, so she thought she’d just change into some of her house clothes and then go watch a little television. Maybe Sid’ll be home then. On her way to her closet.

She spotted something on the bed and went over to take look. Maybe it was a note from Sid about where he’s gone. She picked it up and reading it, the hair on the back of her neck prickled. Putting it down, she was livid. How dare he? O, the poor baby. Run to her brother for protection. Christ!

Sitting on the bedside, her leg tapped nervously. Anger swelled up inside her, she just wanted to throw something. Picking up the cushion, she whipped it at the mirror across the room.

Frannie picked up her phone and rang her brother. I’m sure she’ll get some song and dance about how much he’d been suffering. From what?! From nothing!? He just wants attention. He always wants attention.

And her brother. “Give me a break,” she said. “I mean, trust the two of them to get together. My brother also just craves attention. It’s always been that way.” Determined now, she was going to just ring him to ask what the hell was he thinking.

Ringing the number, she waited.


“Charlie. It’s Frannie.”


“Don’t ‘uh-huh’ me like you don’t know what’s going on. Is Sid there? Let me speak with him.”

“Uh, I don’t think that’s a great idea right now.”

“What? Whaddyamean you don’t think it’s a ‘great idea right now’? What are you his keeper, now? It’s not like he’s scared of me.

“No, it’s not that. I don’t think he’s scared of you. I think he just needs get a break from you for a while.”

“What do you mean? I haven’t done anything.”

“Come on Frannie. Even you must know the things you’ve said to him.

“I haven’t done anything.”

“Really? I mean, I was there when you said he’s no good or a waste of space. You likely didn’t realise I’d heard, but there ya go. How long do you think someone wants to be told they’re useless?” Charlie waited for her response. “I assume by your lack of response that you get what I’s saying. Well, he’s not here anyway. So, maybe ring back tomorrow.” He waited for a moment. “Anyway, bye.”

Frannie put her phone down, staring around the room. All the anger she’d felt had ebbed and now she just felt empty. Charlie was acting like she was some kind of bully. “I’m not a bully,” she said to herself. Her eyes moistened as she stared into the mirror.

Over the next few days, Frannie grew more and more irritable. She’d hit out at a few of her colleagues at work and was actually reprimanded by their manager. Her manager was pretty good and so had just suggested she take a few weeks off.

Because Frannie was never the sort to waste time, she took the opportunity to clean the house from top to bottom. She was scrubbing the laundry room floor.

“Hey, how’s it going?” Charlie said. Frannie only heard him now. “You didn’t hear me calling, so I started looking.”

“O, hi. Yeah, I was just really going at it I guess. So, I didn’t hear you come in.” Charlie sat down on the bench.

“So, how’s it going?” Frannie shrugged her shoulders.

“Sure. I’m okay, I guess.”

“I confess I was driving by and was surprised to see your car here.”

“Yeah, well.” She put her scrub brush down and sat on the bench with Charlie. “I had a bit of a run in at work.” Charlie looked at her, frown on his face. “No, it was all my fault I’ve gotta admit. But my manager kindly said she thinks I need some time away from things for a bit. So, I guess I’ve just been given leave for a while.”

“Ah.” Both were silent for a moment, the sound of the spring birds filling the vacuum. “So, it’s not great right now.” Frannie looked at Charlie, her eyes moistening. She shook her head. He leaned over and gave her a hug.

“How’s Sid doing?”

“O, he’s okay—getting by and all that.” She glanced towards him. “He’s not loving it. It’s just as I said, he needed a break from you.”

“Yeah, I don’t know what’s happening.”

“Well, I think I do. I’m no psychologist. But I saw it happening when you had your second miscarriage.” She glanced at him. “Well, understandably, it just threw you for a whirl. Out of control. And we both know that’s not a place you like to go.” He met her eyes. “So, you kinda hit out. As far as you were concerned, someone was going to pay. And I guess Sid just happened to be in your line of fire.” Frannie looked away. “Think about it, I guess. Best be off. We’ll talk later, okay.”

Sid’s stomach tightened when he drove in, spotting her vehicle. He wanted to see her and yet he didn’t. Charlie had said he’d gone over and spoken with Frannie several times and he said, it might be worth going for a visit. Knocking on the door, he tried it and it was open.

“Hello,” he said, calling out. He saw movement at the top of the stairs. “Hey.”

“Hey,” she said, continuing down the stairs. She went out onto the back porch and he followed. This was his house, but he felt distanced from everything now. They sat down at the table. “Sorry, did you want something to drink? I didn’t ask.” He shook his head.

“I just thought I’d pop by to see how you’re doing.”

“I’m okay,” she said, smiling.

“Charlie said you’re off work for a bit.”

“Well, I’m headed back tomorrow.” He nodded his head, tapping his finger and looking around the back yard.

“The flowers are coming up nicely,” he said, knowing they were caught in the usual evading-the-issue pleasantries. She likely knew it too. But he wasn’t going to push.

“Yeah, they’re nice where you re-planted them.” They sat in silence for a few moments, Frannie looking around until their eyes met.

“Well, I better get going,” Sid said.

“O … okay.” Sid started to get up, not really sure what to expect, if anything. “Wait. I’ve been chatting with Charlie for a bit. As you may know.” she said, looking at him. “And I just wanted to say I’ve been going through a rough time. I know you know that.” Sid sat down again. “And y’know, I think I was msybe taking things out on you.”

“Yeah. It’s hard.”

“So … sorry, I guess.”

“Yeah.” Their eyes met. “I get it. And I’m really glad you’ve been able to mull it over—be more at peace with things. You’ve always been so hard on yourself—for no reason.” He wasn’t sure what else to say. But he wanted her to know he understood what she was saying. It was hard, though. “Well, I’d better get going,” Sid said, getting up.

“Yeah,” Frannie said, her eyes averted as she got up and followed Sid to the door.

“I’ll pop by again, maybe on Thursday. How does that sound?’ Sid said.

“Sure, that sounds good.” She smiled at him, Sid returning the smile. He wanted to give her a hug, but she was standing at the door and didn’t look like she’d be too keen. Maybe later.

Frannie watched Sid’s car drive away. She’d hoped he’d give her a hug or just give her an idea he was still interested in being her husband. She’d said sorry. She closed the door. “I mean, what’s the point?”

Frannie walked to the kitchen and brewed a cup of tea. Sitting down, she looked out the window and was astounded by what she saw. The darkened sky was bejewelled by collection of silver-lined clouds. Frannie got up, the sky was utterly beautiful—breathtaking.

Standing there gazing at the sky, her mind wandered. He didn’t say it was over. And he’d said he’d be returning. After all, he did say she’d see him in the week.

Frannie knew she’d been horrible. Charlie was right. But she looked at the sky again and smiled. Regardless, there’s always a silver lining.

Finding Truth in Dreams

Finding Truth in Dreams

Chrys slammed the door behind her, the loud bang an oddly satisfying expression of her anger. Why had he told that woman about the file? He had no bloody business. She’d told him in confidence. Just to earn points, that’s what it was. She walked briskly onto the path, her steps determined and unyielding.

Chrys knew full well that’s what he was doing, telling their line manager so he could get into her good books. She had no idea why they called them line manager. Stupid. She rolled her eyes, the collection of spruce and firs silent witnesses to her ire.

I mean, it’s not like they were in some damned factory putting together some widget, for God’s sake. She couldn’t stand that woman, one of those upstarts fresh out of university climbing the corporate ladder. Vigorously, she waved away the cloud of insects clustering in the shade of a tree. She tripped, soon regaining her footing. “Damned bugs.”

Image by Hands off my tags! Michael Gaida from Pixabay

It had to end. That’s all she knew. Chrys had come to intensely dislike where she was working. It was useless. They worked to all hours with meeting after meeting. And her life was not that much better now that Marigold was gone. Thinking about the accident was like a sharp knife in her heart. It was still difficult to believe she was gone. She kicked at a rock propelling it into a bush.

Face stern and dispirited, Chrys walked along the path, extending her hiker’s stick just in case she ran into a stupid dog. That’s all she needs. After the last time, she thinks it was a couple of years ago, she never walked without some sort of pole. People are forever walking their dogs and more than half of them couldn’t control the bloody dogs if they tried. She swiped at some brush on the side of the path. The small dogs are the worst.

Keeping her head down, she walked past a couple of other walkers coming the other way. She never bothered to greet anyone any more. Sure, some might find it off-putting. Still, Chrys reckoned they’d only be saying hi because she was looking up. Otherwise, they wouldn’t say anything—obviously. So, why bother bugging them in the first place—better that way. She took another swipe at the brush.

“Excuse me.” Chrys heard a faint singing voice from behind. She turned around suddenly, scanning to see the source of the voice. There was nothing. She rolled her eyes. ‘I must be hearing things,’ she reckoned. “Excuse me.” This time she could swear she heard something. But it was up ahead. Chrys swung around and she just caught sight of something just off into the woods.

‘What is going on?’ she thought, walking to the place where the person had gone into the woods. Should she bother, was her first thought? Sounded like a kid, though. What if they were in trouble? So, she pushed the tangle of branches apart.

“Hello?” she said, trying to raise her voice. “Hello,” she said more loudly. She heard a giggle from up ahead. She walked a little further. “Hello,” she said, slight irritation entering her voice.

“Over here,” she heard, then more giggling. When her head swung around, she encountered the two little twin girls. Twins?

Image by Jacek from Pixabay (twins at sunrise)

“Wait a minute,” she said, her voice just barely a whisper. They were looking very familiar and all of a sudden Chrys realised at whom she was looking—herself. And Marigold, of course. They were dressed alike, as they always were. Their mother doted on them and had only stopped when they reached six or seven. It was her mom who named them after her favourite flowers—Chrysanthemum and Marigold.

The two of them were holding hands and skipping in a circle, first one way and then the other. ‘I must be dreaming,’ she said to herself. She couldn’t believe it. They were singing “The Rainbow Connection” at the top their lungs.

It hurtled her back in time. She remembered how she and Mari used to constantly sing that song. It was their favourite, accompanied, of course, by their total and unmitigated adoration for Kermit the frog. Their dad would play the guitar and they’d sing it at the top of their lungs.

Chrys’s mind returned to the present.

“You’ve gotta come join us,” the one sang out.

“Yeah, we know you you’d love to come. Right,” the one sang to the other. Both held their hands out, welcoming her to come.” Chrys stood there, unable to move, thoughts of what’s gone wrong in her life flooding to the surface. Feelings repeated in her ears—it’ll always be this way. There’s no hope. Give up. What’s the point.

But then, she looked up and met their smiling eyes which were just begging her to forget, to let it go. And like a break of sun through thick impenetrable clouds, finally Chrys couldn’t resist the urge to smile.

She walked towards the two little girls, herself and her sister from another time and clasped their hands. The three of them began to dance in the circle, all to the tune of “Rainbow Connection.” Round and round they danced.

Finally, when she unclasped her hand with young Mari, in her hand was a locket she remembers losing years ago.

Image by Esther Chilcutt from Pixabay

“Oh my God!” she said, startled. “I lost that years ago,” Chrys said, clasping her hands around the locket. She knelt down next to Mari who was beaming. “Mom gave them to us and I was so heartbroken when I couldn’t find mine and then … at the funeral, we made sure you had yours for wherever you were going.” She put her hands around her face, tears flowing. “I felt so torn apart. When I couldn’t find my locket, I felt for sure I’d lost you.” She hugged Mari, her hand tight around the locket.

Chrys opened her eyes, squinting at the light. She didn’t know immediately where she was. Upon looking around, though, she realised she was on the sofa near the big window in her front room. Putting her head against the cushion, she couldn’t help but smile. It was astonishing.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Chrys remembers vividly thinking in the dream how it must be a dream and not real life. She wondered if that’s what people call a lucid dream. She’d heard of those, when the dream is particularly real.

Regardless, Chrys felt like a new person. It was phenomenal. She remembers how she felt when she was dancing and singing. Laughing aloud she thought of the locket. Maybe now, she could finally forgive herself for having lost it.

Chrys went to go put on her jacket because she thought she really would go for a walk. It was like a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Grabbing her sunglasses, just in case it cleared up as they said it would, she placed them in her pocket. There was something else in the way. Pulling it out, she couldn’t at first believe what she was seeing.

There dangling from a chain was her locket. Chrys looked at it with complete disbelief. “It can’t be,” she said in hushed tones, plunking down on the bench by the door. “I mean, I thought I was dreaming. But here’s the locket Mari gave me.

She opened the locket to make doubly sure it was the right one. When she did, sure enough, there was a picture of Mari. That’s what they’d done for fun. Being twins, nobody would know that Mari was in Chrys’s locket and vice versa. So, does that mean I really did go for a walk and meet them? Because Mari sure as heck did give me a locket,” she said looking down at the locket. “It just can’t be.”

Chrys sat in the porch, trying to make sense of what had happened. Holding the locket in her hands, she remembered meeting her young self and Mari, thinking of how wonderful it had made her feel. She hadn’t felt that good in years, to be honest.

Image by Milada Vigerova from Pixabay

She got up from the bench, placing the locket around her neck. Chrys pondered, “I suppose, in the end, what does it matter whether it was a dream or reality or a little bit of both,” Chrys thought. Seeing her young self and Mari was like a sign. Everything was still the same and yet it was not. In its reconciliation was the peace for which she’d been searching.

Light and Energy — Sometimes That’s All We Need

Light and Energy — Sometimes That’s All We Need

Even through the broken windows, the waning sun bestowed a sense of elegance to that old hollow-eyed factory on the corner. It always surprised Gilly how a place so wearied and worn could still be given just a touch of grace by the light of the sun.

Photo by Daniele La Rosa Messina on Unsplash

Gilly was half walking, half shuffling, her hands jammed into her jeans as she neared home, just a couple blocks away. It was a hard part of town, a forlorn place that had seen its fair share of good times and very bad ones, too.

Gilly paid no attention to the never-ending thrum of noise in the background, people yelling, a few laughing. Horns honked in the distance as she walked along the garbage-strewn road. Further ahead was the park dedicated to some faceless person now long dead. Who cares, she thought. What a little bit of nothing, this place. Well, she could cut through the park and get home faster.

As she got closer, Gilly could see some commotion up ahead. Someone was standing there and a bunch of kids were grabbing things from him. Oh yeah, Gilly knew that lot. She picked up her speed and yelled …

“Hey!! Leave him alone …! Hey, I’m talkin’ to you … I said leave him alone!!” They’d looked up by then, realising who it was.

“Oh, don’t worry Gilly, my love. It’s just this stupid old man … geez, what a stink!” as he kicked one of the bags that he’d grabbed from the man.

“I said get outta here now!” While Gilly was no doubt small and wiry, the other kids in the neighbourhood knew well enough not to mess with her. So, fun over, they reluctantly began to turn to leave, some still laughing, others clearly relieved that they were moving on.

“Fine! We’re outta here anyway … better go help grandpa over there.” And with a laugh, they wandered on.

Gilly turned around and started to gather up some of the bags that they must’ve pulled out of the old gentleman’s trolley. It was just one of the shopping trolleys that always seem to be left on their side, often on the edges of roads, waif-like and alone.

“I’m so sorry, sir,” Gilly said, as she handed him his things. “They’re idiots and don’t have a clue most of the time … Most of them are okay. Just one or two are the lead idiots I guess.

“Thank you very much” the gentleman said as he carefully placed the bags back into his trolley. “They didn’t do too much harm really,” he said as he sat back down on the bench.

“No, I know. It’s just not right messing with people like that,” Gilly shared, as she plunked herself on the bench.

“Well, I owe it to you for lending me a much-needed hand,” he offered, nodding his head slightly to her and giving her a gentle smile. “You must’ve been heading home and it was just my luck that you decided to come through the park when you did.”

“Yeah, I was headed home I suppose,” she said, a bit of a wry laugh as she looked up at him.

“Home,” he repeated.

“Yeah, home …” she added with a sigh. “Where do you live? Or is that a stupid thing to ask …?

Source: Photo by Paul Arky on Unsplash

“Oh no. By no means. No, ma’am. This is my home …” as he gestured half-grandly at the surrounding park “ … for the moment.” He patted the bench and his trolley, “I can usually just sleep on this bench and come morning, I have nature’s best and most perfect alarm as the birds never fail to sing me awake with the first light,” he laughed at her, his eyes sparkling with the pure joy of it!

“Geez, the way you make it sound, it’s not half bad,” she said, smiling widely. “It’s nice what you say,” she continued, looking up at him. “You say I was heading home, but that’s a bit of a laugh.”

“What do you mean,” said the old gentleman as he straightened another one of his bags.

“Well, it’s complicated. I mean, for sure, my mom may be there. Likely not though. Never know when she’ll be in or in what state,” she scoffed. “She’s tried to quit, but in the end, she just starts drinking again. I’m sure my little brother’s asleep right now … he’ll be okay.”

The old gentleman nodded as he listened, looking ahead as the sun’s rays were dwindling. “That must be difficult at times, I expect,” he shared.

“Yeah, well I can handle myself …. I don’t know why I’m telling you this!”

“Oh not to worry. I have all the time in the world,” he smiled.

She was a little uncertain, but went on. “Well, I don’t know … it’s just that I always have to keep an eye on my little brother to make sure things are okay for him. No one else’ll do it, that’s for sure,” Gilly explained. “It’s no big deal. It is what it is and all that. But sometimes, geez, you just wanna get outta here. Forget it ever really existed.” She looked at him and added, “I’m thinking I’ll head into the city next spring.”

“Yes, certainly. But forgive me for saying this … you don’t seem the sort to cut and run. There’s a strength you seem to have … a strong will. Sorry. I don’t mean to pry. It just seems that way. You definitely helped me just now,” he added.

Gilly smiled, almost shyly, like he’d somehow peeked under her armour. “I s’ppose. It’s just sometimes you run outta energy and just feel kinda empty. Sick of it all … tired … you know what I mean?” she said looking into his eyes.

He smiled and began to unwrap one of the packages in the bottom of his trolley. “The sun’s going down,” he said. “Look out over the hills over there. They say this is actually the longest day of the year.”

“Geez, I’ve never thought about things like that … a day is a day is a day … whatever” Gilly laughed. “Don’t know anything about that!”

He began to play his instrument, “Uh huh. It’s the longest day and it’s a time they say when there’s apparently magic afoot … isn’t that interesting!”

“What’s that …???” Gilly said looking at what he was playing.

Photo by Carlos Araujo on Pexels.

“Oh, it’s an accordion. I’ve had it all my life. Have to protect it … when I run into a bit of trouble … like earlier,” he smirked.

As he spoke the light of the sinking sun began to paint the sky an elegant mosaic of reds, pinks, purples, and blues and all the while the achingly melodic strains of his music floated into the air.

“So there you go,” the old gentleman assured Gilly. “If it’s energy you need, you can come here, any day of the year, but especially now. Take this energy and drink it in and most of all, you must always believe. Do you believe Gilly … in your place in the world?”

Gilly listened attentively, not really sure of what the old gentleman was saying. “Well I’m not sure, but you know, somehow there’s a part of me that does I think. Believe,” she said hesitantly and then began to smile.

“That’s my girl,” he said, beaming.

Gilly laughed at him, “but I’d better get going now. Maybe I’ll come by tomorrow, eh! See how you’re doing. And let me know if those kids are bugging you. If they are, I’ll set them straight.”

“Oh, I know you will, Gilladrea.”

It was nothing that Gilly ever does, but she quickly gave her new friend a peck on the cheek. “Okay, gotta go” and she smiled, turning to leave.

Gilly pushed her hands deep into her pockets and began walking home, a slight skip in her step. She quickly turned to wave a final good-bye, but to her amazement, he wasn’t there any more. That’s weird. Where’d he go? She cast her eye around, but she couldn’t see him anywhere. Ah, well, maybe she’d see him tomorrow. She looked around again to check. But maybe not.

She kept walking, sure that she could still hear the ever so faint and haunting music of the accordion.

Looking Back to Look Ahead

Looking Back to Look Ahead

Source of Image: Joe from Pixabay (castle …)

“What’s that mess by the back door?” Harry’s wife, Abigail, said sharply, as she placed the bags of groceries on the kitchen counter. Harry smiled knowing it was a jibe and figured he’d take his time to respond. What do they say? Count to ten before speaking. It’s something he’d come to do whenever she made that kind of comment.

To be honest, he wasn’t in the mood to get into another parry and riposte right now. He’d been doing a bit of work outside on what was once their dream solarium. It was no longer a dream, just a reason to get out of the house. Harry had finished all the writing he’d wanted to do.

He’d been working all afternoon and so, he thought he’d come inside, grab a bite to eat before continuing. And after finding the box, he could take some time to think. Harry had no idea what it was, although he was curious.

“What is it anyway? I mean, just throw it out.” Abigail said, as she took more things out of the bag.

“It’s nothing. Just something I found while I was digging to lay the foundation.” He could tell by the way his wife was taking the items out of the bag, set movements, each thudding on the counter, like little bursts of anger, that she was peeved about something. It was the box, this time.

“Well, I’ve got some friends coming over and it’d be great if it weren’t in the way.” He thought, should he question it being ‘in the way’ as it was just a small box.

“Come on, it’s not really in the way.” But the moment he said it, he knew he shouldn’t have. It only made matters worse. He remembers how things blew out of proportion the last time and it led to nowhere good.

“It’s an eyesore and that makes it in the way,” she said, her words terse. They locked eyes.

“No worries. It’ll be out of the way after I open it.” It was best to appease now.

Abigail stopped putting things in the cupboard. “Whaddyamean, open it? Why do you want to open it?”

“Well, I was curious because you don’t often dig up a box. Rocks and other stuff, sure, but not a box.” Harry shrugged his shoulders. He drank the last of his coffee and got up. “I haven’t a clue what it is, to be honest. If you’re interested, I’m gonna open it now.” He thought he’d throw out an olive branch and hope for the best.

Harry walked to the porch where he’d left the box, unsure of whether she’d be at all interested. These days, half the time, he really wouldn’t be surprised if she just walked out on him. It’d been going on for a year now. Harry tried his best not to get into anything with her these days. The one time, he’d really regretted. He was sure the neighbours must’ve wondered. Afterwards, he vowed to never let it reach such a fever pitch again.

He knew it all stemmed from the problems with her family. Her parents were breaking up with a divorce looming. They had created a wasteland for their children while doing battle, dragging the entire family through the muddy trenches of what was appearing to be a pretty sordid life. He wasn’t surprised. Money had a way of dragging people down to never-before-seen levels.

Of course, Abigail would be the last to acknowledge it. She’d always been the peacemaker. But it had even exceeded her attempts, leaving her adrift. He’d tried to allay her fears for herself, their own children and so on. But nowadays, he just left things alone. Still, the past year had been pure hell.

Harry dusted some more dirt off the box. He looked up as his wife came into the porch. “Just thought I’d take a look at what you’d found.” She shrugged her shoulders as she sat down. He’d put it on a bin bag. Lifting it, he turned it around and around.

“It’s pretty light.” He shook it and they could hear something was inside. Abigail sat on the bench paying little attention, looking out the porch window, immersed in some turmoil within. Harry wasn’t entirely sure why she was there, but he figured maybe there was some ember within her that could still be ignited. “I can’t imagine it’d be too complicated,” Harry said as he fussed with the lock. “Let’s see if the internet can give us a bit of help,” he said as he pulled out his phone. He looked for a moment. “Well, here we go.” He showed her the website he’d found on how to pick locks.

“Nowadays, you can find the damndest things on the internet,” Abigail said, rolling her eyes.

“Pretty good someone decided to share, though.” Harry thought it was best to stay positive to keep things on an even keel. He read the instructions while Abigail was lost in her thoughts. “That doesn’t sound impossible.” Harry started to get up. “I’ll go and collect some of our tools. It’s not too much we’d need. Just a paper clip, I think,” Harry said. Abigail picked up the box, scrutinising it.

Harry returned with a paper clip. He was pleased she seemed to be at least somewhat interested, even though he was sure the troubles hounding her still rattled and boomed in the background. He began inserting the paper slip, jiggling it around for a few minutes. “I don’t know if this is the best approach,” he said, laughing. Meanwhile Abigail read through the instructions on the website Harry had found.

“Here, let me try,” Abigail said. Harry looked up.

“Sure, here ya go.” He handed the box to her. She placed the clip into the lock and while jiggling it, she pulled it in and out. Abigail worked at it for about ten minutes. Harry watched, his back against the wall. He thought how nice it was for her to be so completely distracted by picking a lock of all things.

Smiling, he wasn’t sure if he’d seen her give such rapt attention to anything in the past year or so. “I think the keyway just turned.” She smiled at him, looking like she’d just won an unexpected prize. Continuing to apply pressure, the keyway finally rotated and they heard that magical click as the lock disengaged.

Harry laughed and clapped. “You did it! I don’t know. I think you may have some hidden talents we need to talk about,” Harry said. Abigail smiled. And that was like an unexpected light, something Harry hadn’t seen gracing her features for a long while.

“I’ve been thinking about shifting careers,” she said. Harry smiled as he opened the box. Inside, there were a wide assortment of letters primarily. He opened one of them.

Source of Image: Felix Lichtenfeld from Pixabay

“Well, the date is 23 January, 1916. It says ‘To my Dearest Penelope.’ And it goes on talking about what the writer’s doing in England and their training. They just talk about how it’s going and when they think they’ll be going over. I assume they mean mainland Europe.”

“O, my God,” Abigail said in a sudden gasp. “Is the person who wrote it a William Morris Turner?” Harry flipped to the next page. He nodded.

“Yeah, that’s what it says. ‘With all my love, William Morris Turner.”

“And was the person to whom it was written Penelope Ann Harcourt?” He looked at the envelope.

“Right again. It’s addressed to Miss Penelope Ann Harcourt. How did you know that?”

“Well, the land we’re on, pretty much all of the homes in this subdivision, used to belong to the Harcourts. I mean this is going back decades. When we were growing up, our mother told us about the family and how they eventually sold their land. Then it just became a part of the town. Their house is still standing, actually.” Harry furrowed his eyebrows.

“O, of course. That’s the community museum on whatchamacallit street.”


“Well, I’ll be darned. So, what’s the story here?” Harry said as he picked up the box and began looking through more of the letters.

After getting some more coffee, they spent the rest of the afternoon reading the letters. Harry didn’t say a word about Abigail’s friends coming over because clearly it hadn’t been that important. Maybe she’d just said it. He thought it was best to just let the afternoon flow.

“The one thing that’s different is this letter,” Abigail said, lifting up a letter. “It’s not from William Morris, either. It’s from Penelope. And it’s not even in an envelope.” Harry looked over. “To be honest, it doesn’t even look like it’d been posted, actually.

“What does it say?” Abigail opened the letter and began to read, a look of enlightenment touching her features.

“Ah, that makes sense.”

“What makes sense?”

“It says, “My dearest love, I received your letter with the usual anticipation and joy. Rest assured, I was overjoyed with the question at the end of your letter! My response is an undeniable and emphatic YES! I would so love to be your wife!” And the letter talks about a few other things. But that’s the main part of it, I think. It’s utterly beautiful,” Abigail said, her eyes moistening.

“I mean, yeah, it’s beautiful, but why did I find this buried. It doesn’t make any sense,” Harry said, furrowing his eyebrows and taking the letter from Abigail.

“Well, that’s the really sad part about it, isn’t it” she said, a tear rolling down her cheek. “You see, from what my mother explained, they never got married. William Morris was killed in 1916 and so it was never to be.” She looked at Harry, her voice cracking. “It’s horrible because you know why she buried all his letters and her letter. She must’ve been so thoroughly heartbroken.”

Harry touched her shoulder, gathering her into his arms. It was the first time in a while that Abigail had expressed any emotion other than anger or frustration. She’d become tightly bound over the months. So, he wasn’t sure if she were crying for Penelope and William or the sadness enveloping her own life. In any case, something had clearly broken.

Harry gave her a tissue with which she wiped her eyes. “It’s awful because this place was sold around that time, after the war. I mean, it was sold and they started to break it apart. It’s just makes you realise the horrible things people have had to endure.” She sat looking at the letters, straightening them and placing them back in the box. “I mean, can you imagine how it would’ve been when she got word he’d died. She would’ve been absolutely lost. I’m not surprised she buried the letters. She didn’t want to destroy them. She just wanted them gone.”

“Where did she go? Do you know?”

“I’m not sure. She had family in England. They were originally from there and so that’s likely where they went.” They sat quietly for a moment.

“Well, there’s a sad story. You can only hope it ended happil,” Harry said.

“Yeah.” Abigail got up from the floor and sat on the bench. “It just makes ya think of the big world out there. Myriad sad stories to go around, eh,” she said, looking at Harry.

“Absolutely.” He didn’t want to say anything, as he thought he’d rather give her the floor to maybe speak her mind.

“It kinda makes you realise the world’s full of sad stories.”

“Happy stories, too. Don’t forget that.”

“I know. It’s just, you forget,” Abigail said, closing her eyes.

“Yeah, but the most important thing is at some point, you remember,” Harry said. Abigail looked at him, their eyes meeting. She looked down.

“I’m sorry for how I’ve been. How long, I don’t know.”

“No worries. It’s in the past.” Their eyes locked again, with Harry and then Abigail smiling. “Well, how about we say, in honour of Penelope and William, it’s time to turn the page.”

Gwennie Going Home

Gwennie Going Home

Gwennie rocked back and forth, the chair creaking in its familiar way. It was so lovely to sit near the front window, the sun unencumbered by the sheers. She’s glad she’d asked Olga to remove them. Olga was her new caregiver and she was a blessing.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Her heart was racing as she watched her Penelope play with an imaginary mouse, most likely. She put her hand to her chest. It was nothing to worry about. It’d done that sometimes in the past. Penelope was probably as old as Gwennie was in cat years. Like Gwennie, she obviously still had some life in her yet. She smiled at the thought. Goodness, last time she thought about it, she reckoned she was around 98. One loses track. It’s like that when you reach a certain age. The numbers cease to matter.

She shimmied forward on her chair, thinking she’d go get a cup of tea. That would be nice. Gwennie’d already had something to eat for supper and so, all she really wanted now was something small. Maybe she’d have one of the biscuits Isabelle had brought.

Getting up Gwennie felt another sharp pain in her chest. That one concerned her. She got up with a little effort ….

Her head tilted back as she swung high. Back down again and her sister pushed her again, laughing.

Image by Petra from Pixabay

“One more time, Gwennie and then it’s my turn, okay,” Gwennie’s sister said, squealing with delight as she pushed her again.

“Push one more time, Ida! One more time,” Gwennie said, yelling at the top of her lungs, giggling all the time. Ida pushed her one more time and then they both let the swing slow down so Gwennie could jump off. They switched and Gwennie used all her might to pull the swing back as much as possible and then with a laugh she pushed Ida. They did that for the rest of the afternoon.

It was a beautiful Sunday and so they were given a little extra time to play. But they still had chores to do. So, Gwennie spent part of her day helping her mother with the sewing and knitting. Her mother was mending her father’s trousers and Gwennie was darning her brother’s smellie socks—at least that’s what she always thought. Ida was in the kitchen and her brothers were with their dad in the woods checking on the snares.

“Yeah, thanks,” Izzie said, as she took the forms from Ryan. They’d already wrapped up her body and placed it on the stretcher. It was a small town and so, they both knew Gwennie.

“It was her heart,” Ryan said.

“Geez. Why worry? I think she was closing in on a hundred. When ya get to that age, you’ve lived your life to the full, is what I think. So, it’s okay to say good-bye,” Izzie said, as they rolled the stretcher out to the ambulance.

“Well she had a good run, that’s for sure,” Ryan said as she slammed the door closed.

Clambering into the ambulance, Izzie’s mind was on Gwennie. “Yeah. But you know what I always wonder. I think about when they’re unconscious and already pretty much gone, in their minds, do they go anywhere?”

“Don’t know. I think they’re just gone.”

“Y’know. I think they go back to a time in their lives when they were happy, truly happy — not a care in the world. I bet many go back to their first home,” Izzie said.

“Ah well, we all know you’re a dreamer,” Ryan said, smiling at Izzie. Checking behind him, he drove off.

A Safe Place for Ada

A Safe Place for Ada

Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash

“The moon’s really bright tonight. The sun’s not even down yet. Imagine that. It’s like that time a couple of years ago in the field by your parents’ farm. Remember that,” Ada said, wrapping the blanket a little more tightly around Marley who shivered in the cooling summer evening air.

“Thanks. You seem immune to the cold,” Marley said.

“It’s not cold,” Ada said, laughing.

“But yeah, I think it’s getting close to full,” Marley said. “It’s so peaceful, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” she said, barely a whisper. The reality of the situation suddenly weighed heavily on them, neither wanting to draw it into their circle of peace. So, for a few more moments, they remained quiet, the jibber-jabber sounds of the ducks punctuating the light evening hum.

“Well, thanks for letting me stay,” Ada said.

“Geez, it’s not a problem at all. My home is your home. And before you worry about it, Xavvie loves you being here. You’re like his little sister. I swear he’d do more for you than he’d do for me.” Marley rolled her eyes, pinching Ada’s side.

“I’m glad,” she said. “And thanks for getting me outta there. I really think he was gonna hit me or something.”

“I don’t think he could stand straight. He was completely pissed out of his mind, what I could see. But yeah, people who drink too much are often pretty dangerous. All I know is I’m glad I was there to get you outta there.”

“Yeah,” Ada said, again in hushed tones. They were quiet again, soundlessly absorbing the mood of the evening.

“Anyway, I’m gonna go inside and get something ready for supper.” She checked her watch. “Xavvie should be home soon. Are you gonna stay out here for while? I can give you a shout when supper’s ready.”

“Yeah. I’ll just sit out here for a while, thanks.” Ada smiled, her eyes distant, as Marley got up.

“Listen, it’ll all be okay. You can stay here as long as you need, it’s not a problem.”

“Thanks,” Ada said as she nervously played with the corner of the blanket.

Looking around, she was never sure. Although, she hoped if she were by herself, he might be more willing to appear. Everything was silent. Ada just sat quietly, her eyes on the ducks in the pond in front of her. They always seemed to be so consumed with eating or grooming. Periodically, they’d tip over, their pointed tails popping upwards towards the sky.

Her mind wandered to what had happened. Freddie had promised her it’d never happen again. He got dead drunk a couple of weeks ago and it was Xavvie who’d arrived just as he was really getting unpleasant. She’d been thankful he’d arrived and was able to kind of talk him down. Well, Xavvie and Freddie were old friends. Afterwards, Freddie had promised her it’d never happen again. Then … she spotted a movement at her side.

“Hey, how’re ya doing, kiddo?” Ada smiled.

“Not too bad. Really glad to see you. I didn’t know if you’d come or not.” He took off his cap and put it on his knee, sitting down he leaned against the back of the seat. He smiled at her.

“I just had to wait a bit is all. No worries.” He looked at her, his face suddenly more serious. “Well, like I told ya, that one is not to be trusted. I mean, that sort is always thinking of themselves. They don’t give any thought to anyone else.” He put his hand up for her to wait. “Before you say, sure, maybe he’s had a hard life. That sort normally have. But if so, he’d best get that figured out before he gets involved with anyone else.”

“Yeah, I know,” she looked down, ashamed. “I thought I’d give him another chance.”

“Well, hopefully you now know he’s not to be trusted. Geez, girl. You’ve gotta watch yourself. Too soft hearted, you.” He pointed at her, a smile on her face. “Not to worry.”

“Yeah, I’m here now and so, I’ll just go tomorrow when he’s at work to clear away my other things.”

“Ask Xavvie if he can go with you. I don’t think it’s a good idea to do that on your own.”

“No, I won’t. I’m sure Xavvie wouldn’t mind coming. I don’t think it’d take me very long.” He started to get up.

“Where ya going?”

“Hey, listen, your old man’s got things to do.” He laughed at her. “You’re not the only one who needs a checking up.”

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

“Yeah, well, thanks Dad.” He gave her a hug and then wandered off along the path. She watched him go, not a care in the world. It’d always been that way, even when he was alive. Her dad was always the kind of person who never let anything get under his skin. She smiled. Ada sat there, watching her dad far in the distance, she could see people around him. But she had a feeling they likely didn’t even know he was there and so, they just walked by.

She didn’t have a clue how he knew about her boyfriend, if she can even call him that anymore. But her dad had known something wasn’t right and told her. She was the one who didn’t listen.

“Ada,” she heard Marley calling. “Supper’s ready.” She got up and folded the blanket. Her dad was out of sight now. But she knew at some point, she’d see him again. Folks sometimes say they’ve got a guardian spirit. Ada smiled, thinking, and sometimes we do.

It’s Never Too Late

It’s Never Too Late

Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

“No offence, but I hope I never see you again,” Reilly said, as he hoisted his knapsack onto his shoulder.

“No worries, man. The feelings mutual.” He clapped him on the shoulder. “And thanks again for what you did for our Kelly. That was big of ya.”

“Well, I trained as a paramedic when I was younger and so it’s not something you forget.”

“Still, thanks.” Reilly gave a mock salute as he walked through the door. He almost winced as he heard it slam shut after him, the lock being put in place again.

Reilly just kept walking. It was only when he’d made it past the fencing and the exterior gate that he turned around. He stood for a moment, taking it in, the gate, the fence, topped by fiendish razor wire surrounding all the buildings.

His eye went to a bird, a starling he thought, who’d made a nest in the eaves of the one outbuilding. He knew the name because it’s a bird for whom his late wife always used to feel sorry. She was always soft-hearted about things like that.

But imagine. Here was a bird who actually chose to come here. Most of them would run a mile to get away from the place.

He followed the serpentine road as it wound it’s way off the property. His mind shifted through a wide range of thoughts. Images of Trudy during her final moments. How he’d completely lost it when she’d died. How he’d turned back to his old habits, finally ending up in here. Reilly kept walking, head down.

He had an address for a place where he could stay for a short while at least, enough time to find a place of his own, maybe a job. It’d be worth his while to get in touch with his old union. Maybe they’d accept a former criminal. He shook his head in disgust. He’d made so many mistakes. Useless. But at least he was able to get off the heroin. There’d been nothing good about it, leading down sordid pathways through the underbelly of life.

What would Trudy say. He laughed, thinking, he knew she wouldn’t be disappointed. She’d likely say, well, this is a new chapter. But that was the problem. He just couldn’t see it. Rarely could. That’s why he fell so hard when she left. She’d been holding him up. He shook his head in disgust. He’s sure she’d tell him to quit his moaning. Things’d get better. Easier said than done.

He stopped by his new digs, just to check things out. Reilly still couldn’t get used to the whole idea of freedom, that he was free to go wherever he wanted, now. It’s only when one loses that freedom does the thought of just going for a walk seem almost magnetic. Go. Why? Because you can. There was a small park nearby and he might as well go for a quick turn around.

Reilly grabbed his jacket, cramming it into his knapsack. The weather was cooling a little, even though it was still mid-September. It was likely a harbinger of things to come, no doubt. He walked, soldier-like to the park. He passed a couple clearly out for an evening walk. He’d kept his head down, only sorry afterwards for being so, what would Trudy say? Don’t be so grumpy. She’d giggle afterwards. That would always pierce through his curmudgeonly mood, forcing him to laugh.

When he reached the park, there was the odd person out for a walk. He headed for the benches that’d been placed along the water. It’d be nice to sit there for a while, enjoy the blue sky and the feathery clouds arrayed in the sky. Finding a place, he watched the gulls paddle in the water, rising with the swell of the tide.

He opened his eyes, when he heard the crashing bang, realising he must’ve dosed off. Quickly looking around, he spotted the over-turned bike behind him and the young boy lying on the ground.

“Are you okay?” he said, rushing to the boy who was trying to get up. He looked to be around thirteen or fourteen, Reilly thought. He was at the age where everything seemed to be getting longer and you still weren’t quite sure where to put everything. “Just hold on. Not so fast.” He lifted the bike up and rested it against the bench. “Are you okay?” He lifted the young boy from the ground. “You better sit down for a moment over here.”

“Thank you, sir,” he said. “That was close.”

Reilly chuckled a little. “That was very close. Are you sure you’re okay? It was a pretty good tumble you did.”

“Not to worry.” He plunked himself down on the seat, dusting himself off and checking his knee where he’d scraped his leg through his jeans. “Thanks very much, sir,” he said, smiling. Reilly smiled, thinking how he reminded him of his Trudy, people who were never easily dislodged from their heartened perspective.

“What’s your name?”

“I’m Gilbert. Most just call me Gil.”

“Listen, maybe you better call your mom or your dad. Maybe they could come pick you up, save you having to ride home. You’re gonna feel those bumps pretty soon.” Gil just looked out to sea, the gulls darting around offshore. He glanced quickly at Reilly, meeting his eyes.

“My mom and dad are gone.” He looked away again, seemingly hesitant to linger with any further human connection.

“Sorry. Really sorry to hear that.” Gil merely shrugged his shoulders. Reilly stared out to sea for a moment. “That’s rough. How’re ya doing?”

“Oh, I’m okay. Me and my sister, we’re living with our uncle and his wife.”

“How’s that going?”

“My aunt can be a bit of a witch sometimes, but for the most part she’s okay, I guess. I think it’s just hard for her to grow accustomed to two kids being around.” He gave a wide smile. “But my uncle, he’s the best. We’ve been living with them for a couple of years now.”

“Yeah, it’s good you’ve got someone you can look up to.” He paused for a moment. “It’s hard, though, losing someone.” Their eyes met.

“Well, I was pretty much gone for a while after the accident. But then I remembered what our mom always used to say,” Gilbert said. “She’d go on and on about how important it is to believe in yourself. She’d say there’s no one like you in all of history and there never will be again. So, your life, she’d say, is your beautiful creation. Makes ya feel kinda special,” he said, smiling at Reilly.

“She sounds like she was a wonderful person.” His thoughts went to his Trudy. It was something she would’ve no doubt said.

“Yeah, she was. My dad, too. He used to say how folks sometimes spent their entire lives trying to prove they’re value, that they’re worth something and all the time their answer’s within them, not outside.” Reilly nodded his head, looking out to the horizon. It seemed so obvious now with Gil explaining it. But he’d never thought about it.

“You were really lucky to have the parents you had. Mine,” he said, laughing wryly, “weren’t the best. Ruled by the bottle, if you know what I mean.” He put his head down.


“Aah, the way she goes. Luck of the draw, I imagine,” Reilly said. “But I met somebody afterwards, she’s no longer with us. She was like your parents.” Gil excitedly nodded his head.

“Sorry you had to say good bye to your lady. But yes, you know what I mean, then! It’s like you’ve now got a key to unlock the true beauty of the world—and of you.” He was beaming, pointing to Reilly. “Well, I better be on my way. If not, my aunt and uncle will be wondering where I’ve gone. It was really nice chatting with you, sir.” Gil put on his helmet and then waved to Reilly as he pedalled away.

Reilly’s eyes wandered back to the horizon. Gil was right. It was all within each one of them. He’d spent how many hours in prison, wrestling with his worth, trying desperately to find it. Reilly remembered looking into a mirror and seeing nothing but a total failure staring back at him. He knew he’d taken a seriously wrong turn to land him where he was. Trudy had helped him and he’d leaned on her, he realised, for everything. She was so strong.

Still, talking with Gil, it was only now he realised that, all the time, he was the one with the answer. What an epiphany. He’d spent a good part of his life trying to find his worth outside of him. Although, his worth and value as a person was there all along. And imagine, all it took was a ten minute chat with a thirteen or fourteen year old.

Reilly got up from the bench and walked through the park, the attributes he felt were at one time mediocre, ascended in their quality. The flowers were somehow brighter and the trees, richer in their sundry greens.

He hopped up the stairs, pulling out his phone.

“Hey, Matt, how’re ya going.”

“Great, man. How are you? I take it you’re back with us.”

“Yeah. Just this morning. I was wondering if there’d be any chance to get some work on one of the jobs. I’m more than happy to pay up and all.”

“Sure, I’d be happy to put your name in for some that should be coming up soon. Just let me go over to the computer.” He paused a moment. “And listen, I know things have been a little rough of late, but I don’t think that’ll be a problem. You’re good at what you do.”

“Thanks. I wouldn’t mind updating my information and paying my membership.”

When he got off the phone, he sat back and watched as the sun sank into the water, a melody of colours highlighting the sky.

“Well, here’s to you Trudy, my love. Maybe this really is a new chapter.”

To Find A Better Tomorrow

To Find A Better Tomorrow

She could barely contain herself, her heels echoed in the now largely empty parking garage. Clio made for her car, fumbling with the key to open the door. She slumped into the seat and put her head down against the steering wheel, breaking out in tears. Clio cried like she’d never before, it all spilling out. How could that woman have been so cruel, she said to herself. She had no right to say those things. And I just took it. I always let people walk all over me. She knows I do good work. I can’t take this anymore, she thought, squeezing her eyes shut.

Clio sat up and looked at herself in the rearview mirror, her face streaked with tears. Leaning over, she grabbed some tissues out of the glove compartment. After wiping her eyes and nose, she started the car and began to drive out.

The snow-covered streets were largely empty. She reckoned most had taken the day off to get a head start on their weekends. It was beginning to snow again and so, she thought how some would be happy they’d left the day before. Pulling into a parking spot in front of a café she spotted, Clio got out of her car. Why go home right now? She was in a horrible mood and really needed to just let off some steam. Anyway, her boyfriend would only be home later in the evening and she just wanted to be alone right now anyway. Her life was in a mess. That’s all she knew for sure.

She walked into the café and realised, there was no one there. She checked the door for the hours to make sure they were still open. But yes, they’d only close at 6 tonight. Checking her watch, she realised she still had a couple of hours. There was only one person working and he was sitting and reading at one of the tables. He looked up and smiled when she came in. She thought he was likely happy to get some company.

Walking over to the counter, she looked at all the luxurious foods, a temptation for even the most disciplined. She smiled at the attendant. “It’s hard to choose.”

“Yeah, there’s quite the selection. But take your time.” He seemed content to wait while she chose.

“Well, I think I’ll choose the cranberry cream cheese streusel. I thought I’d treat myself after the day I’ve had,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“Ah, something sweet always makes us feel better,” he said. “Are you eating in?” She nodded her head.

“Yeah. I think I just need to relax, forget the day. What a fool I’ve been,” she said, her face half way between a whince and a smile.

“That bad, eh?” he placed her tart on a plate. “Did you want anything to drink with that?”

“Yeah, y’know, while I’m at it, I think I’ll have a hot cocoa.”

“Sure, go ahead. I’m getting the feeling you deserve it.”

“Y’know. I think I do. There are just those moments when you need to, I don’t know.” He smiled.

“You need a sympathetic ear and to somehow know everything’s going to be okay?”

“Yeah. I think that’s about it,” she said nodding her head and laughing. “Whether that’s the case is another story, of course.” She smiled and took her cocoa.

“You can just go take a seat, I’ll bring your streusel over when it’s finished heating.”

“Thanks.” She went to take a seat by the window. Already feeling better, she shuffled off her parka and watched as the plough went past. Stirring her cocoa, she blew on it and then took a sip. Her mind was awash. How much she just wanted to be done with it. She’d worked at that company for a little over ten years. And she knew that woman was just trying to show her up, trying to make her look bad. Newly graduated, most likely and knowing all the right people. Anyway, she was sure everyone knew the work she was able to do.

“Here ya go,” he said, placing her streusel on the table.

“Thanks.” He’d already turned around to leave, but she called him back. “You seem like a sensible guy. What would you say to someone who’s had enough?” He looked at her, his face appearing like he was thinking. He came back and pulled up a chair.

“Do you mind?” he said.

“No, not at all.” She took a bite of her streusel.

“Well, it all depends on where you’re at. How do you feel?” Her face looked perplexed. “I mean, is this something that’s gonna blow over by Monday and it’s all good? Or, is this something that’s been simmering for a while? So, that’s what I mean. It depends. The solution’s gotta fit the problem, if you know what I mean.” She turned her head, thinking about what he’d said.

“Y’see, I don’t think it’ll blow over. It’s kinda ongoing and I don’t know,” she said, her eyes focussing on some people walking by outside. “I don’t know, I just feel like I’ve had it. But what can I do? I’m really sorry to be bothering you about this. I feel like such a fool,” she said hurriedly.

“Why do you keep calling yourself a fool? There’s no need to say that. You did what you did and like everyone else, you’re just trying to make the best of things.” She looked down and stirred her cocoa, its steam billowing upward.

“Yeah, I know.”

“I get the feeling, it’s a bad habit,” he said. She looked at him guiltily, raising her eyebrows.

“Guilty as charged,” she said, her voice low and barely audible.

“Besides, if you keep saying that about yourself, why the heck d’ya think everyone else isn’t gonna join in?”

They sat silently for a moment. “People always say you’ve gotta believe in yourself. But I guess, I’ve never been very good at that.” She looked at him askance, her eyes mainly on the window. “All my friends, they’re married with children and everything’s just wonderful for them. Here I am with nothing.” She mindlessly shifted some crumbs around the streusel on her plate.

“Hey, first of all, you have no idea whether your friends’ lives are so perfect. I’m sure if they were here right now and we could asked them, they’d beg to differ. And second of all, I’d really question whether you’ve really got nothing. What are the things you enjoy doing?” He stared at her, his eyes warmly waiting for her response.

“I make stained glass ornaments and frames for a hobby.”

“Do you now,” he said, smiling at the admission. “How long have you been doing that?”

“Oh, just for about ten years. I usually give them to friends. It’s just a hobby.”

“Well, that’s just it. Would you say you’re proud of your stained glass hobby?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, shifting forward on her seat. “I love doing it. I’ve just started writing things in calligraphy and other lettering, too.” She waved her hand to emphasise. “Then I frame it with the stained glass.” He smiled as she described the process and some of the poems she planned on using.

“So, talking about believing in yourself, it sounds like you’ve got every reason to do so.”

“Do I?” She looked at him, sheepishly. He laughed.

“I’m afraid you do.”

“I know. It’s just I start feeling better and there’s this voice in me that almost says, I don’t know …” He held up his hand for her to stop, as if to say, leave it to me.

“It says, ‘Whoa … wait a goddamned minute! Where do ya think you’re going so fast?’ Doesn’t it?” She glanced at him and lowered her head. “And you, dutifully, get right back into place. ‘How dare you step forward, thinking you’re doing anything of any use or value. You get back!’ That’s what it says, isn’t it?” She looked up at him, nodding, her eyes moistening. “Listen, you’ve gotta know, you’re not alone. But when that voice tells you to sit bloody back down and know your place, ya know what you’ve gotta say?” Her eyes were focussed on him, not sure exactly what he was going to say. “Well, you’ve gotta say ‘no,’” he said, his finger pressed down on the table, emphasising his point. “And know with all your heart, you mean it!”

“No,” she said, clasping her cocoa between her hands and taking a sip, all the while looking out the window.

“That’s right,” he said, his voice quiet. “I get the feeling you tend to be at odds with yourself. You kinda think you’re doing everything wrong and that’s how it’ll always be.” Their eyes met. She glanced away. “It’s not a problem and nothing to be ashamed about. Not at all. It’s just it seems when a part of you stands forward and states, yes, I’m a somebody, another part of you hastens forward and hushes you, ‘sshhh, no you’re not!’” Her eyes remained on the passers-by. No one came in, though. She was pleased. “You’ve gotta not listen. You are somebody. You said yourself, you’re good at your work. What do you do?” She looked at him.

“Oh, I’m a law clerk at one of the law offices and so, we do research and other bits for the legal team.”

“But you’ve also got this work you do on the side, your stained glass.” He looked out the window for a moment and then caught her eye again. “Y’know, geez, even if you didn’t also do the stained glass, the thing is, you have no reason to think you’re a nobody. What are you doing always comparing yourself to your friends anyway? They’ve got their lives and you’ve got yours. Sure if there’s something you’d like to change in your life, go ahead. But don’t ever think you’re somehow less than anyone else. Your life is just different. Plus, as I said, I know if you spoke with any of your friends, they’d be sure to tell you, ‘no, everything’s not all right.’”

“Yeah, well, I’d love to just tell the people at my job to shove it.”

“Well, what’s stopping you?” Her eyes focussed on him. “I mean, I’m not saying quit completely. Not yet, at least. But maybe there’s a way you can have your cake and eat it too. That’s all I’m saying. You’ve gotta believe in yourself. Don’t worry about what’s happened in the past. Forget about it. Past failures and mistakes, forget ‘em. And regrets, ditto. Forget em.’ You’ve got the courage and determination. So, do it.” They remained, eye to eye, and then he smiled. “So, hey, why don’t you think about it and I’ll go warm up your streusel because I get the feeling it’s probably all cold again.” He got up taking her plate to the front to put it in the microwave.

She looked outside as she heard the light whirr of the microwave. Maybe, she thought. Maybe he was right. Looking outside, her perspective changed from what was going on outside to her reflection and she smiled.

He came back and placed her streusel on the table. “Thanks. For the streusel and everything else, too.”

“My pleasure.” He looked up at the door and smiled. “Gotta go soon.”

“Oh, yeah. Here I am holding you up.”

“No worries. Take your time.” He smiled and turned around, waiting at the front.

Clio ate her streusel, almost luxuriating in every bite. Somehow, it tasted that much better. She felt like she’d had a great load lifted from her shoulders, weight she hadn’t realised she was carrying. She walked to the front, zipping up her jacket.

“Y’know, coming in here was one of the best decisions of my life, I think. I have to thank you for everything you said. It’s meant the world to me.”

“You’re very welcome. It was the least I could do. And just remember, you’ve gotta believe in yourself. You can do it.”

“Thanks. And I love your T-shirt. Everyone can do with a smile. You’re like one of those mysterious helpers in the fairy tales.”

“Maybe so. I never thought of it like that.” She smiled again and then walked to the door, turning around one more time to wave. She hurried to her car, feeling like she had a new lease on her life. It was such a relief.

When she woke up the next day, she couldn’t wait to get to work. Clio’d decided that night before she ’d closed her eyes, sleep beckoning her, that she was going to quit her job. She couldn’t believe she’d do something so radical. But she knew she’d saved enough money to allow her to not work at all for a year, provided she didn’t fly off on any vacations. She knew she wouldn’t and she’d put everything into her stained glass work. Oh, she knew the money would never be as good as what got at the legal office. Still, she’d be free. And why not try.

Clio placed her hands on the steering wheel and remembered how she felt last week, when she was sitting in this parking garage alone. But she felt a thousand times better now than she did then. She’d handed in her resignation, working until Friday. Looking around, Clio couldn’t help but smile broadly.

The first thing she knew she had to do was go back to the café and maybe he’d be working again. She’d realised she hadn’t even asked his name. After finding a parking spot nearby, Clio walked to the café.

“Excuse me.” The young woman smiled, looking up at her. “Hi. I was here last Friday and I was wondering who the man was who was working.” The woman looked at her with a frown.

“Last Friday. Are you sure?”

“Oh, yes. I’m absolutely sure.” The woman looked at her frowning.

“Well, the only reason I know you can’t be right is because we were closed on that day. I think we were closed from Wednesday, right through to Tuesday of this week.”

It was Clio’s turn to frown. “It was definitely last Friday. The man who helped me, really helped me and I wanted to say thank you.”

“Ma’am, one of the fellows who worked here, he owns this place, he was killed in a car accident and we’d closed for his wake and funeral. So, that’s what I mean. It couldn’t have been last week.”

“But I was here and this beyond lovely man served me. He had on this T-shirt with this smiley face on it. He was about 6 feet tall. Dark brown hair. Almost shoulder length.” She showed with her hand. Clio was confused by the growing look of befuddlement on the woman’s face. “I guess I just don’t understand. You look utterly perplexed,” she said, growing more confused with the entire conversation.

“It’s … it’s just because you’re describing Ric or Cedric. He owned the place.” She moved her hand around, as if showing the place. “I mean, it couldn’t have been last Friday you were here. Not if you met Ric and it sounds like you did. It was his wake and funeral.” She looked away, uneasily. “Maybe you’re just mis-remembering. You must be mis-remembering. I mean, as I said, it’s Ric you’re describing, but … he’s gone.” Clio hung her head down, not sure what else to say.

“Thanks. It was likely the week before and I’m just confused.”

“Yeah, it’s easy to do. I do it all the time,” the woman said, notably relieved. Clio nodded her head again, smiling politely and then left. She didn’t know what to think. It didn’t make any sense at all.

She walked outside and looked across the street for some reason. And he was there. It’s like everything else receded, sound faded and he was all she could see. He smiled and then held up both his hands clasped together towards her, as if in celebration. She smiled, as it seemed like it was another nod of approval. Just one last message that she was on the right path. She blinked and the sounds of the street and the bustling pedestrians returned. She looked up again, but he was gone.

Clio opened her car door, throwing herself in and resting her head back. She closed her eyes. Well, she knew she’d entered a new chapter today. What she’ll do is dedicate her next piece to Cedric as a thank you. It’ll hang on her wall as a reminder. She put on her blinkers and pulled out, looking all around, wondering if she’d see him again. Although, she knew she wouldn’t.

Maybe we all do have our helpers when we need them. It’s just we don’t always realise it when we find them, do we. But they do exist.