2019 Short Story

Night Garden

“Come on, Edward, don’t be scared!”

The brother saw the edge of his sister’s curls, and then her little hand held out to his. It had always been this way, from the time she was five years old and discovered the storeroom in the cellar beyond the washing room where the laundry bags sat like scary soldiers. He’d never ventured that far in the darkness but she’d just taken a flashlight and, while the parents and the nanny wondered where she’d gone after supper, went and had a look past the creaky door of the storeroom.

“Come on, Edward!” she’d said then. “There’s treasure’s inside!”

And he, like a fool, had gone. The ‘treasures’ back then had turned out to be nothing more than a musty pile of old books that used to sit in the upstairs nursery.

Now, fifteen years later, she was insisting that he follow again. Through an old brick archway, into the night of the ancient Spanish streets to wander and see the lights.

“They’re supposed to beautiful!” she gasped in excitement. That childish pleasure in her eyes defeated him.

After all, when he was a boy of ten, he’d overheard the parents say that one of them was sick. One of them wouldn’t live to see that time when adulthood settled and childhood was left behind.

It had scared him, when he’d heard those words. The parents had sounded so sure. Either he or his sister was sick. One of them wouldn’t make it to adulthood. What else could they have meant except that one of them was going to die soon?

And so, he’d allowed his sister to lead him places he’d never intended to go. Into musty storerooms and giant libraries. Through busy market places, and noisy concerts. From talking to the funny man who brought the post, and she’d gone to asking him to carry in the tea tray when she had her friends over. She’d made him stand, and bow, and introduce himself to them.

She’d even brought about him making his first friend and then asking the girl he admired out for a walk in the afternoon sunlight.

“Come on, Edward,” she always said, dragging him forward into a life he couldn’t see the possibilities of but had to face. Traveling through the darkness of the unknown for the promise of twinkling lights in the distance.

It must be her that was sick, for he’d grown huge, strong and robust. She was delicate, innocent and unable to see impediments. One such as she couldn’t survive, right?

And so he always did what she asked.

It was there, a short while later, as they leaned against a winding wall, on vacation in Spain, and looked at the twinkling lanterns of the quaint village windows, that she explained what it all meant.

“Don’t be silly Edward, I’m not sick!” she laughed. “You’re the one they were scared of never reaching adulthood!”

“What do you mean?”

“Because you never spoke or wanted to leave your room! They were afraid you  wouldn’t learn maturity or to make your way in life! But look at all you’ve accomplished already. You’re the one who taught me to be brave. All those times you faced your fears for me. That’s what adults do, isn’t it?”

“I suppose it is.”

She patted his big arm with her small hand “You don’t have to be scared, you know. The darkness hides the future from us, but that doesn’t mean there’s no good to be found. You just have to trust as each new year rolls in, full of the unknown. Take the light of God with you, and you’ll find treasures on the way!”

He had a look at all the twinkling lights spread out like a flower garden below them. Really, all he had to do was refuse to grow up like she did. Embrace childish hope, in God and the future.

Happy New Year, my friends!