Story – The Jigsaw Puzzle
It was a bright day. As she looked out of her first floor apartment window, Meredith saw little children bounding across the grass. The park was buzzing with activity. Some kids were chasing each other, shouting and laughing. Some tiny tots claimed the swings and were begging to be pushed higher, and squealing in thrill once their wishes were granted.
Meredith turned away and looked at the clock. It was already half past ten, time to get dressed and head to work. She showered, half-heartedly humming a song that had wonderful lyrics she could not remember clearly. Breakfast – brunch, rather – was quick, a warm loaf of bread and orange juice. She would grab some coffee on her way. She wondered how many cups she consumed in a day. She could not remember that, either. Who cared, anyway, as long as she made it through the day?
Grabbing her bag and keys, she stepped out into the sunlight. And stopped in her tracks. On this bright, sunny day, when the kids were busy making merry, one little girl stood out. She was lying on her stomach, crayons scratching across a notebook. Her left hand covered one corner of a page, shielding it from the wind, and her brows were frowning in concentration. She looked up at the other children, looked back into her notebook, and drew.
Meredith didn’t understand why, but something about the child triggered her curiosity. She walked up to the girl, and peered into her book. It snapped shut. “I’m sorry dear, but it looked like you were drawing something very nice. Mind if I look?” “Umm, I guess not”, came the answer.
She was looking at an illustration of a girl on a swing, hair flying, pushed by a laughing woman. “That your mother, dear?” “Yes, but she isn’t here”. “Oh, where is she then?” “‘Up there’, says dad”. Meredith swallowed. Her eyes closed momentarily, and she tried to block out a vision of her own little girl, found drowned in the pool that horrible afternoon. How many times had she looked up at the skies, thinking “She’s up there”?
She opened her eyes slowly to see the girl looking sweetly at her. “You look a lot like my mom; may I hold your hand and walk?” “Of course, sweetheart, of course”.
They walked together for a few minutes around the park. The little girl, Mary, was sounding increasingly chirpy as she talked about herself and her school and her dreams and her dollhouse. Meredith smiled; the girl’s cheerful spirits had infected her to an extent by now.
“My dad sits by the lake, writing. He doesn’t smile a lot these days. He only buys me dolls and candy and talks softly to me. He too writes to mom I guess”. “Alright then, let’s go to him”.
Meredith gently pressed soft curls in place beneath the coloured hairband and walked with Mary. As they neared the lake, she saw the man sitting against a tree, writing furiously. She remembered someone else who had that habit. Oh, the memories of teenage crushes. She let herself recall the intense eyes and the notebooks he carried. How he never smiled, but wrote stuff that made the hardest soul melt. Sigh, those were the days, long forgotten as she graduated and allowed herself to be brainwashed into a carefully planned marriage by zealous parents. The man was a good catch, they said, but nobody warned her of consequent despair. Obviously the marriage failed. And here she was, grieving over an infant daughter, divorced from an indifferent husband, watching herself grow older and lonelier…
The man looked up. “Dad, see whom I brought along!” There was a moment of silence, broken only by her hammering heart as intense eyes pierced her soul. The hair was messed up, just the way it used to be. And the frown…She bit her lip and stepped forward, feeling that somewhere, somehow, a jigsaw puzzle was being completed.