She steps into the sunlight, a bath of yellow light engulfing her with warmth and comfort. Grace holds the door open a moment, a tiny bell shaking out a steady rhythm next to her. The sidewalk in front of her is worn but clean. Without knowing why Grace turns to her right and takes a step, then two, her Sunday shoes clicking quietly on cement. She feels good; better than she’s felt in ages. A bag bounces against her leg as she walks, she glances down at it. Yellowed with age and scuffed she doesn’t recognize it or know why she has it. She stops a moment, looks down again and sees hands that can’t belong to her, can they? Slender and long but withered with age they are the hands of her mother. Her gaze looks past the hands that aren’t her hands and sees many little trinkets in the bag.
Were these toys of her youth? She remembers playing with them, her brothers stealing them and then her finding them under the tree in the front yard later in the afternoon. Grace smiles at the memory of days gone by. Of course she still has them. Why wouldn’t she? She continues her walk. To her left an old street, a few pieces of trash littered here and there. A car parallel parked, old and brown, so much like her father’s first car. She wants to stop, are the seats as worn as she remembers, but something calls her forward. The street isn’t very crowded. She finds this odd, isn’t it Saturday? Shouldn’t it be bustling? A few people pass her. One nearly runs into her. Faces in the crowd, half remembered from places she can’t recall.
To her right, old store fronts giant glass store fronts dominating. She smiles and wanders towards them. Her steps come a little faster now. She looks at the store front of one, inside the small suite she sees a mother and several children playing. A girl, in her teens, stands watching the children and mother. She glances up and Grace meets her eyes, a smile wide on the young woman’s face. The girl’s eyes give support, a reassurance everything will be alright. The boys, twins, with light hair, tumble and giggle with each other. Grace smiles, warmth and comfort calls her but a nagging desire to see more pulls her forward. Another store front greets Grace, a family at dinner. The father older, mother serving dinner out of a bowl, eager children waiting and babbling. Grace wants to stay and watch, the man, grinning, is so familiar to her. She wants to call out, to have them see her. She reaches towards them, opens her mouth to speak and finds her voice mute. She keeps walking instead, the pull even greater to reach where the sidewalk ends.
As she continues her walk she sees a yellow car, engine idling deeply, sleek and swift looking, a woman in uniform smiling and waving. At her? Maybe? The girl looks familiar, older than Grace remembers somehow. Grace struggles to place the woman but waves back. She keeps walking. A last window pane on her right but a crack in the cement catches a heel. Grace trips and pitches forward. Her left hand reaching out, skinning her palm, pain shoots through it. She holds desperately to the bag but it tears and the contents spew onto the concrete. She looks up once quickly and sees a Christmas vignette framed in the window of another store front, frozen in time, a rock fireplace, a tree, and children babbling, grinning, and giggling around a stack of brightly wrapped presents. They remind her of people she should know but can’t recall. So many children watched by adults who all look up at her and smile almost sadly at her. They are all there, but who are they? She smiles at the joy she sees. She can almost remember…what?
A pain interrupts her viewing. She looks down and sees a scrapped knee. The sound of that little hanging bell comes back to her now. She tries to look behind her, has some one left the store? Why can she hear the bell? A shadow falls over her. The ringing bell slows. She looks up and sees him and smiles with relief. It’s been so long and she’s been so lonely. Their eyes meet, an odd ballcap perched with bill up, showing off his forehead. She laughs. He smiles and her heart flutters. The ringing bell slows even more. He reaches a hand down to help her to her feet.
“Hello Grace,” he says, his voice rich.
“I missed you,” she replies.
“I’ve missed you too but we have to go now.”
Something tells her she doesn’t want to but he’s there and she’s missed him. “I know.”
She stands, the world swoons a moment but he’s there like she always imagined him to be and he helps her forward. They walk towards where the sidewalk ends. They approach the end and slow their walk. She looks at him, he smiles down at her. The bell slows, stops and then rings one final long ring. Grace’s vision blurs, he hugs her.
Yes. Very ready. The bell silences, the world swims and all that’s left is he and her, now and forever.