This story is by Wendy M Cramer and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Marcy’s parents chased happiness and financial security across several states. A quiet farmhouse had provided opportunities for Marcy to explore cornfields in the company of a black cat called Tom. Her mother had rescued an abandoned dog, and soon the dog and Marcy were inseparable. During a stay in Florida, Marcy had begun to ride her bicycle, alone, farther and farther away from the house, daring herself to ride until her legs ached with the effort. Marcy’s heart was broken when the family decided they could no longer keep the dog. The next move took the family to a house that sat along a river.
Marcy’s mother had a furious temper. Dad was quieter and preferred to avoid these “scenes”, as he called them. Mom would cry about the family she had moved away from to marry Dad. What began as a crying jag would often gather intensity and her temper would flare as she blamed Dad for “the life she should have had.” Dad would retreat to another room, or, more often, would leave and “go for a drive to clear his head.” The argument today had taken a nasty turn – mom had grabbed a broom and began swinging it at Dad, who held his arms up attempting to prevent himself being swatted.
“I hate you and I want you to leave!” Mom had screamed through tears. “Stop, Rita, STOP!” Dad had been saying, over and over.
He filled a cup with water and splashed it at Mom, which only made her angrier. She connected a blow to his shoulder and he yelled out in pain, swearing as he did so.
Marcy had been watching from the living room where she and her sister Ella were playing. She said a hushed goodbye to her baby sister before slipping unnoticed through the living room and out the front door. She felt guilty leaving her sister behind, but she didn’t want to risk getting caught.
She crossed the busy street in front of her house and picked her way down through the trees and brush that grew up the bank until she reached the water’s edge. Pulling her shoes off, she pressed her toes deep into the cool mud. She passed the time by tossing sticks into the river, watching as the current carried them away. Rows of ants busied themselves in marches up the sides of the trees along the water. The sound of cars filtered down from the road above.
Marcy loved to find places where she could be alone with her thoughts and free of the conflicts that seemed to surround her. In her private world, she could view herself as a normal girl who didn’t have the problems of real life.
Raindrops began to fall. Turning to pick up her shoes, she noticed one of them had slid down the slippery bank. Reaching for the shoe, her foot came down on a slick patch of mud and she lost her balance. One foot shot into the river, and as she tried to balance on the other foot, her knee came down on a rock. She could feel the rough stones in the riverbed as they scraped her foot.
Powerful currents forced her legs from under her as they drew her out to deeper water. Icy, wet blasts slapped her in the face. Her feet kicked out in search of something solid. With a stab of fear, she realized that she couldn’t breathe. Her arms and legs were so heavy it was difficult to move them. The edges of her mind started to grow dark as she felt great gulps of water fill her mouth.
A bird was singing sweetly somewhere close by. Marcy was lying on the grass and she could feel the warm sun shining on her face. Her eyelids felt pleasantly heavy and it was with reluctance that she finally opened them, blinking in the brightness. She was lying on the grass next to the river by her house. A beautiful woman was looking at her, her face upside down. The woman’s face was round and smooth and framed with soft curls. She smiled and Marcy noticed that she had dimples. Her brown eyes were wise and kind.
“Hello, Marcy,” she said. “You’ve been asleep.”
Marcy’s mind felt slow. How had she gotten here?
“Where am I?” It was barely a whisper.
A hint of sadness appeared in the soft brown eyes.
“You’re in Peace. You’ve been through a terrible ordeal.”
“What happened?” Marcy asked. She lifted her head and looked down at her body. She was wearing her blue shirt which clung wetly to her torso, her denim shorts were muddy, and her feet bare. A faint memory, like a dream, started to unfold in her mind. She remembered the river and how it had started to rain.
“Am I drowned?”
“Yes, sweet girl. You were caught in the river and you didn’t get out. “
Marcy considered this. The warm sunshine and the soft grass and the woman’s smile and kind voice wrapped around her like a warm hug. She sat up on her elbows. “Am I going to stay here?” she asked.
The beautiful woman smiled again. “You may, if you like. We would love to have you.” She leaned forward. “Or, you may go back. There is Good left for you to do with your life.”
Confused, Marcy said, “What good is there for me to do?”
The woman’s smile brightened and she reached out to take Marcy’s hands in her own.
“Each of us has Good that we are to do in our lives. Sometimes the Good is easy to see and sometimes it isn’t. We each are important parts of our own special tapestry. Have you ever seen a tapestry?”
Marcy shook her head and the woman picked up from the grass between them a shimmering blanket that Marcy hadn’t noticed before. It was woven with mountains and trees, flowers and animals. Her eyes traveled across the cloth and found a black cat, curled up asleep, and a dog – her dog. Her heart beat faster.
“What is this?”
“This is the tapestry of your Life. It is full of the things you have experienced and of things you have yet to experience.” She turned the tapestry over and smoothed it out on the grass. This side was filled with people. Some Marcy recognized – her mother and father, Ella, her grandparents. Many she did not. The people seemed to be looking back at her.
“There’s a lot of people.”
“I don’t know who all of them are.”
“Not yet. These are the people who will be better because of the Good you do in their lives. Look here.” She laid her finger on Ella.
“This is your baby sister. She’s tiny now, but she already has so much of your Good in her. She will live her life whether you stay here or go back home. But her life will be better with you there. In fact, she has Good in her to give you too.”
Marcy looked into the eyes of the many people on the tapestry. The warm air was sweet and comfortable on her skin. This was a very pleasant place to be.
“And I can pick if I want to go back?” she asked.
“Yes, you can.” The woman reached out and took Marcy’s hands. Her grip was gentle and reassuring.
Marcy thought of her mother and father, and how their arguments had made her feel afraid. She thought of how hard it was to change schools and be the new girl. She thought of how much she liked her special places where she went to be alone. She thought of how much she loved her sister and how they played together. She thought of how she helped Ella to fall asleep at night by reading stories to her. She thought of helping her mother and of how her father had taught her to ride her bicycle. A tear leaked out of her eye and rolled down her cheek.
“I’m afraid,” she whispered.
The beautiful woman gently brushed the tear away. “I know. But you know what? You can always find this Peace here, in your heart,” as she said this she reached out and touched Marcy’s chest. “Anytime you feel afraid.”
Marcy reached out and touched the tapestry again. The faces seemed to be softer now and less distinct. She looked up into the eyes of the beautiful woman.
“I think I want to go back.”
The woman smiled and began to fade. Marcy’s eyelids were heavy and she found it irresistible to lie back down on the soft grass.
A loud yell penetrated her ears like a thunderclap. She was being pulled by the arms out of the water and along the ground. A bright light was shining in her face. Jumbled voices coming through her foggy mind…
And then the voice of her mother, sobbing and holding her hand.