Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Secret Worth Keeping - Part I - Short Story

My husband and his mother 1957 - A very loved child
This is a short story I wrote a couple of years ago.  I'm going to break it down into three segments and I hope you will stay with me for the conclusion on Tuesday.  I promise it will be worth your while.  And so it begins..... 

Sophie Ross had a secret.  She had been living with her secret for seventy-five years and wasn’t about to divulge it now.  She couldn’t believe how careless she had been in the toy store the other day.  That wretched mother was ignoring her screaming children and yelling at the harried salesclerk over the price of a talking robot.  Who needed a talking robot, she thought.  Sophie had always hated seeing small children in distress, so she merely fixed the problems as they occurred.  Seventy-five years and she’d never been caught and now two days before Christmas she had some store manager calling with a few questions about the incident that had occurred last Tuesday.  It hardly amounted to an incident.  Sophie liked to refer to her intervention as an enlightened involvement.
          Sophie had been born a few years after the stock market crash of 1929 and her birth brought joy and hardship in equal measure to a family suffering from financial and emotional malaise, yet Sophie was wrapped in love.  Even when the house was cold and the pantry bare, she knew love and could feel it in her bones.  People often talked about feeling something in their bones and it became one of the first signs Sophie ever recognized as being part of her gift.
          It was at the tender age of five that she first discovered the depth of her power.  She had been sent to the corner store with her brother to purchase a loaf of bread and a quart of milk for the family.  Along the way, they encountered a         distraught boy and his fearsome father who was dragging his son down the street at a furious pace. Sophie stopped and stared, feeling a deep empathy that brought her to tears.  In the next moment, the child quit crying and pulled himself free.  The man stopped dead in his tracks, suffered a brief, almost imperceptible tic of a seizure, before smiling beneficently at the child and proceeding forward with a decidedly more sensitive approach to parenting.  The boy quickly smiled at Sophie before walking away hand in hand with his father.
          Witnessing hardship in children took its toll on poor Sophie.  She often went home and took to her bed with every bone in her body feeling a deep ache of empathy and exertion.  Having no money for a doctor, her parents brought her broth and hot tea to coax her back to health.  Eventually, her strength would return and she would venture back into the world with renewed optimism.  Sometimes she would go for weeks without an incident, but just as a wisp of happiness would begin to envelop her mood, another unhappy child would loom on the horizon.
          As Sophie grew, the use of her gift became more nuanced.  She could sense the difference between a spoiled child throwing a tantrum and a child who dealt with out of control adults.  She could distinguish between a tired ‘I need a nap’ cry and a jagged cry for help.  Sophie chose her moments and used her power wisely.  She also grew a stronger backbone.  After each incident, she no longer needed to recharge, but found her strength charged by the knowledge that a child’s life had changed.
          Sophie never told her parents, her siblings or her friends.  Truth be told, she would not have been able to explain the how or the why of her gift.  She didn’t dabble in magic but merely affixed her gaze on the sorrow in front of her and the change occurred.  It was hardly quantifiable or subject to dissection; it just happened.  She had tried silly things like turning mice into rabbits and sticks into snakes but no luck.  No, her gift was only useful in the direst of circumstances – a child professing profound distress.

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait for Part 2! Love the pic of Mike - the clothes, Hazels awesome coat! The background of the photo with the boxes & shoppers. Great photo! Now I know why all the cousins say that Patrick looked like "Ralphie" in the Christmas Story - he got it from his Dad! (minus the glasses of course :)
    Part 2.... :)