hello shelly anne

Concrete Dreams

 

The old woman's chest rose and fell in shallow swells as she lay on the hard bed in the sparse room. A small oscillating fan attempted in vain to move the heat around to no avail. Instead the warmth was just chased from one corner to the next. Two marginally younger women sat quietly next to her. Bent in prayer, their mouths formed the shapes of the words in silence, though he could clearly understand their thoughts. Slowly and deliberately their hands traced the lines of the beads that meant so much to them. These women called the old one "Mother". Most of her life, she had been called "Sister". If he could form such a relationship, he supposed that he would call her daughter more than either of the other two.

He looked forward to speaking with her for the first time. So many questions he wanted to ask for so many reasons. He had not known her long, though in truth he knew her much longer than any of the others. Still 93 years was only a moment. The old woman had managed to fill the short life with so much living as she had shaped the world and the lives around her through her iron will and unshakeable faith.

He remembered the day she faced down the Tonton Macoute officer in 1964. He thought that he would need to step in on the woman's behalf but the officer had been intimidated by the courage she had shown and had ordered his men to spare the orphanage and the children living in it. The machetes would not be used that day. When he had left, the woman's small frame betrayed her and she staggered as her body finally shook with the fear that she dared not show in front of the man. When he thought that he would need to support her, she had straightened her own body and slowly walked into the building where she collapsed into a chair and wept.

He would not have to wait much longer. The woman's time was almost at hand. She had faced her own death with grace and courage just as she had almost everything in her life. He wondered what she would say to him? Though she had never indicated that she knew, he had no doubt that she felt he was there and had always known. 

His thoughts turned to the whirlwind of energy that she had been when she was just six and those that knew her called her Shelly Anne. She had forbidden her father from putting down the sickly lamb, promising to care for it and to bring it back to health. Like every promise that she had made during her life, she was true to her word and soon the lamb was running around the pasture with the others. At that moment, he knew she was to be different and that he would have his hands full.

Since she had reached the age of 26, when the plain gold ring had been placed on her finger, the world had called her Margaret Frances. He knew that she had always continued to think of herself by the old name. To him, she was simply "Her". He did not need a name to know her.

Now at 93, on a Tuesday afternoon, six days after the anniversary of her birth, the old woman took a deep, final breath and as the air sighed out of her settling lungs, he turned to face her. To greet her for the first time.

 

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