Lovers and Lunatics

by Johnette Loefgren

She came into my bookstore on the edge of a storm. Her long blonde hair was crazy with rain and wind and a flurry of leaves made it through the door with her. She laughed and pulled the knit cap off her head. "Hello," she said,"I'm Wendy". I thought,"Yes you are. I held out my hand and said, "Hi Wendy, I'm Elaine".

    I don't usually greet my customers like that but she was the only one brave enough to be out on a day like this. I don't know why I even opened the shop that day but it was a way of avoiding the grief and pain of my child's death. "Follow me," I told her and headed back to the reading room. I had a pot bellied stove roaring back there and a kettle whistling for tea. She came along with me and  I smiled and motioned for her to sit in one of the overstuffed chairs but she chose the rocker.  

    She liked her tea with cream and sugar and she loved the lemon crunch cookies I made. I put a log in the old stove and listened to the rain on the tin roof. She picked up a child's book of verses and as she turned the pages , tears began to roll down her cheeks. "What is it?" I asked and she took a photo from her coat pocket and handed it to me. It was a cherubic little boy holding a puppy. "He died today," she whispered,"Someone threw him against a wall."

     I ran my fingers over the baby face and just shook my head. "I'm from child services," she said,"I begged to have him removed from that place but they wouldn't listen to me." Tears ran down my face as I handed back the picture. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a photo of my own. "This is my daughter," I told her as she took it from me. "She died last year . I was forced to give visitation rights to my abusive ex husband. He said she fell down the stairs."

    Wendy came to sit beside me on the sofa and put her arms around me."I'm so sorry," she said as I began to cry harder. I wasn't used to opening that door with anyone. Why was I doing that now?"Everything is going to be alright now," she assured me and wiped away my tears.  Outside the rain stopped and I suddenly wanted to get out there and feel the wind in my face. "Do you want to go for a walk?" I blurted out.

    She nodded so I locked up the shop and we went out the back into the park. I am not a spontaneous person but she felt like home to me. My heart seemed to know her somehow and I know she felt it too. We walked through the dripping forest until we came to a little bridge across a rushing stream. "That's you," she said and held my arm. "You are a rushing stream and I am your bridge. A bridge is no good without a stream and a stream needs a good bridge don't you think?" I looked down into her emerald eyes and knew the truth of her words. And just like that ,standing on that bridge with the wind and leaves swirling around us I met my destiny. 

    "Come on," she laughed,"Let's go home before the next storm." I took her hand and we walked out of the park across a large open field of wild flowers. "This is my land," she said, "And this is my cottage." We came upon what would seem to be a fairy tale home nestled in a stand of mulberry trees and marigolds. It was dusk when we fought the wind to close the door and she held out her arms to me. 

   "Welcome home." she whispered as she held me tightly. Tears started again and I looked down to see she was crying too. "Who are you really?" I asked . She took my face in her hands and looked deeply into my eyes. "Remember last week when you were taken in to be evaluated ? Well I was there with one of my children from child services .You're not mentally ill, you're just grief stricken. We can help each other. They say I am having a break down too but it isn't true. Grief can do funny things to the mind. "She stroked my cheek saying, "We belong together Laney. " No one had called me that in many years. She must have had access to my file. We stood there a long time with my face buried in her hair that smelled of wild flowers and I felt happy. I had not felt anything for so long I didn't care if it was crazy or not. I had nobody to wonder where I was and now even my few friends thought I was having a nervous breakdown and were skittish around me. Wendy was an oasis of life in my dead world. I felt a surge of affection for her.

   I sat on the rug beside her while she built a fire and then she found us sweat pants and T shirts to change into. She turned and pushed a lock of my damp hair behind my ear and said "I've never seen such blue eyes with hair as black as yours. It is lovely." I blushed and she said,"I am going to warm up something for our dinner. I'll be right back. 

There was a big book of fairy tales on the rug in front of the fire and I began to look at it. When I got to the page about Rapunzel I had to smile. That long blonde hair and emerald eyes were unmistakable . She came back with two bowls of porridge and a little bear cub. "Not Rapunzel, but Goldilocks ," she said with a gentle kiss and we lived happily ever after. Or we will until they find us.

The End

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