An Old Lady

by Anthony Rhys

She sat there beneath the tree, shaded and cooled from the sun. The sky, the sky was clenched with melancholy, a certain sadness that always came with the passing of summer to autumn. At the start there would always be dreams, hopes, fantastic and absurd in nature, but they had been her dreams, dreams shared by all children caught in the fantastic feverous notions of youth. Summer had shone to her, it glistened with hope, it was happiness. And the days would come, full of sunshine and open blue skies. They would eat ice cream outside as it melted onto their fingers and lips. They would run and play, dance and sing, swim in the cool river, and watch films in the theatre. And during balmy nights they would lie on cool grass to gaze at the softly strewn stars. They would do so much, but it was never enough, their spirits would not be satisfied with any of this, they wanted more, more of something, but they were never quite sure. And summer would end just it always did, always too short, always empty sweet, abruptly ceasing their fun and games. She was not young anymore. Time had taken much more than it had given to her. Her beauty was faded and lost in wrinkles, her full hair grayed and dull. And her glistening eyes no longer shinned as they once did. Many of her friends, her brother and sisters, lovers had long passed away. Alone, she was alone in the world and it pleased her to remember life, to recall happy days, remembering everything, to try and taste and feel what had been. Her thoughts traced back to the present, she peered at the tea cozy she was knitting. It somehow seemed useless, to knit the thing, a waste of time. The fabric would be brought to life by her hands, full and beautiful, for what? To be used and wasted, worn and ragged in time, and cast aside. She let go of it and dropped it onto the grass, I won't have you wasted, she said coolly. She looked back at the sky. Like a sea she had always imagined the sky, a big empty blue sea. She had seen the sea once, when she was a little girl, her father had taken the family to the coast. On the beach she had stared into the sea, watching the waves fold endlessly. The tide tenderly stirring and crashing against the shore. And on the shoreline they had walked together, upon smoothly pallid sand. They walked for hours and had slowly drifted apart. Her father was the furthest from her, leading in the front, her brother walked behind him, staring at the sand, her sisters walked together behind him, jovially conversing. And she, alone in the back, watched them impassively.

She had always been unassuming, that was her nature, she never cared for anything more. She never questioned anything; she never sought deeper meaning or purpose for her life, simply walking along the long road of life, just to be alive seemed something of a miracle to her. Marrying young she had simply given in to her husband's advances and requests; it had pleased her to be thought beautiful. Yet, as she sat there beneath the tree, in the garbled garden, she felt something stirring. She looked at her granddaughter lying beside the marigolds, aside garden shed. Younger people, especially this new generation lacked proper manners, self-centered, egoistic; so full of themselves. The world would be theirs and it worried her. Everything would be wasted by them; they had no sense of value, always trying to find themselves. The newscasts always relayed some story of the younger generation complaining, crying for a handout. Her granddaughter was a college student attending some liberal university or other; expensive and useless, they never learned anything in those big fancy schools. And this girl seemed nave about everything. The world seemed to be full of possibility, foolish hope that life could be taken in your hand. Had she been like that? Had life once seemed so wonderful, waiting like a rose freshly sprung, to be plucked, its beauty to be explored? Perhaps there had been a time when she ventured to make something of herself, to find something wonderful. It had been foolish to think like that, crazy to think something of that sort could happen to her. Her parents had reminded her of this and consoled her to find a husband, someone to take care of her. And so when she had met him, reliable, in stable employment, making good money, he seemed a good catch; and he was handsome. There were times when she felt she didn't love him, but she dismissed ideas, she would never believe that she couldn't love him. Now here she sat beneath this tree, was it a life wasted? No, it wasn't, but that was life, you could never really do the things you wanted, it carried you places, places you never wanted to go.

She looked back at her granddaughter. She was a beautiful girl, with dark lustrous hair, full light eyes, and a trim youthful figure. The old lady felt a twinge of regret; the young girl would be wasted and worn like all things, like the tea cozy, like herself. It pained her to think of this, it reminded her of own youth. How beautiful she had been then, how happy she was. And now, now she was only an old woman, cast aside and left to rot, to fester in solitude before the world.

The sun began to cool in the sky, the clouds rolled together, embraced in a sort of atmospheric dance. A slight breeze swept the golden marigolds, softly, tenderly almost, like an amorous lover. The old lady stepped away from her worn wicker chair.

Rebecca, do you what time it is? She called to the young girl.

The young woman stirred from where she had been lying near the marigolds and answered No, I don't know, I think it must nearing five o'clock.

Five o'clock, the evening had just begun to arrive. Soon shadows would creep across the garden ground, enveloping the botanic world in darkness. Supper would be consumed, dishes would be washed, and bodies would be bathed in lathered water. Another day lived, another day to be lived tomorrow. The endless cycle, life piled on life, had begun to wear her out. Eating every day, sleeping every night, it was tiresome. If only she did not have to do anything of that nature ever again, perhaps then she could be happy. When she was a little girl she had often imagined what it would be like to be a bird or a kitten. Free of any of the worries that might have come to her, liberated from the conscious strain of all this misery. What pure delight! How happy she would have been to not be able to think or worry then. She could come and go as she pleased, flying far away from the winter to shimmering sunny days in the south. Yes, what a life it would have been. And perhaps she wouldn't have to suffer anymore. As she suffered long sleepless nights in a lonely bed, full of fear, anxiety, an angst that seemed to tear away at her insides.

-Grandma, are you alright? Rebecca asked nervously. She had risen from marigolds and was puzzled by the blank gaze upon her grandmother's face, which was so often marked in cheer.

-Oh, don't worry dear, it's nothing, I was just thinking to myself. Responded the old lady warily.

-Okay, I think it's time we headed inside. It looks like it's going to rain soon. Rebecca said apprehensively.

-Yes, it does. The old lady said staring again at the sky. Okay then, could you help carry my wicker chair into the garden shed? She altered the tone of her voice, as she had so often done throughout her life, to her usual voice, full of gaiety and vivacity that others had come to know her by.

-Sure. Replied Rebecca, pleased by the return of the lively grandmother she had always known. She had been confused by the aloofness that her grandmother had displayed; she had never known her like that. Her grandmother was always chattering, always lively in conversations. Lately, however, she had noticed that her grandmother seemed to detach herself from the world, just like this last moment. She felt an unusual feeling coming from her grandmother, it unsettled her. They carried the wicker chair into the old garden shed; it was hefty and cumbersome to hold, and at times they had almost dropped it. They place the chair alongside discarded, inanimate objects, once loved but now forgotten.

-Thank you dear. I'll be inside in a bit. Chirped her grandmother.

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