A story about friendship found through sharing grief and a promise made.
|The strong winds that had started the evening before, continued on right through the lonely night on Hartford Lane. The calm of the next morning brought with it unhappy frowns on the faces of its inhabitants, who found their lawns and walkways in total disarray.
It was there between the mess of broken branches, strewn leaves, old newspapers and a couple of flyers that had eventually housed themselves all around her porch, that Megan found the photograph.
It was lying face down, somehow stuck to a moving company flyer; but it was the cursive writing that actually caught her eye, making her go in for a closer inspection. Turning it around, she saw the photograph of a woman sitting on the shore enjoying a sunset. It was taken from her left angle while she stared out across the sea, watching the sun set and it casting across the evening sky beautiful hues of pink and orange. The woman looked middle-aged, but even from her side profile on the picture you could tell she was a looker. Megan turned it around again to read the handwritten inscription on the back.
“Look at life like a painting, and it will paint you a masterpiece”
“I will always be there to lead and guide you, Scottie, in everything you do. I will love you always.” XOXO
Megan looked at the photograph again and wondered where it came from. She knew most of the people on her lane, but couldn't recollect anyone by the name of Scottie. It seemed too precious and important to someone to just throw into the trash, so she gathered all the trash into a heap on the side and took the photograph back in with her.
It had been 8 months since Dad's passing, and Megan still wasn't ready to join in any banter with her friends and co-workers. She felt she was cheating his memory by enjoying life; when she had got a second chance and he didn't, so she housed herself indoors apart from work, errands and the occasional trip to his grave. Her pack of friends slowly diminished; save for Alexis and Jackie who took turns checking up on her occasionally, especially on weekends. So, when Alexis called in that afternoon with an invitation for a day out, she declined.
“I have my hands full doing repairs and fixes in the house, what with the winds yesterday.” she lied, “I'm actually heading out to town in a bit to buy a few things.”
It took some convincing, but Alexis finally agreed to let it go, and after a while ended the call. Megan then sat on the lounger beside the telephone contemplating what to do next and finally decided that she truly did have to buy groceries. Besides, she wouldn't put it past Alexis to come in to actually fact-check what she had said. So, she quickly changed up, grabbed her wallet and headed out the door.
“Hello dear! How are you doing?” Mrs. Hubert was the little old lady who owned the 7/11 grocery store around the bend of Hartford Lane.
“I'm doing well, Mrs. Hubert, thank you. How is Ralph? Pretty busy with repairs at home, I presume,” Megan inquired.
Ralph was Mrs. Hubert's husband and town handy-man. Because of his love for fixing things he was nicknamed 'Ralph Can Fix It'
“Oh yes dear! He is like a kid at a carnival today; that Ralph of mine! He got done with most of the stuff at home by mid-day and is now living it up at Vernon's place, helping out the poor new guy who just moved in there. First day in and yesterday's winds have left him in turmoil.”
Megan suddenly remembered that Mr. Beaufort's house was vacant for some time now.
“The poor lad has just moved in and all alone, I might add. Poor dear, I think he lost someone in his family or something.” continued Mrs. Hubert.
“That's nice of Ralph to help him out, Mrs. Hubert,” said Megan, handing over the cash for her groceries. Mrs. Hubert smiled, nodded and then turned to greet another customer who just entered.
Megan waved her goodbye and walked out to head home.
She rang the doorbell and waited patiently. After Mrs. Hubert's chat yesterday, Megan decided to come pay a visit to the new resident of Mr. Beaufort's house to see if possibly the photograph she found belonged to him. The inscription felt personal; like it probably meant something to someone, so she decided to try to find its owner to return it.
She rang the doorbell again since there was no answer, waited a few seconds and finally decided no one was home. Turning her heels, she started walking back down the walkway towards the gate when suddenly the front door opened up. Spinning around, Megan saw a tall man standing in front of the archway wiping his hands on a dish rag.
“Oh hello” started Megan. She just realized then that she hadn't thought this part through. “Ahem, I'm Megan, I live in the yellow house at the end of this lane.” she continued.
“Hello Megan dear” came the greeting, but from the opposite direction. She turned around to see Ralph making his way up the walkway towards where she stood.
“Hello Ralph” she greeted, “I see you've met Brandon, here” he said stopping beside her.
“Only just.” she replied, mentally thinking that he wasn't the “Scottie” mentioned on the photograph.
“Hi Megan” was the curt and quiet greeting that came out from his lips.
He was standing leaning against one of the arches of the porch watching her intently.
There was an awkward silence for a few seconds, until Megan said, “I was just passing by and thought to stop by and say hello and welcome you to the neighborhood” she quickly lied.
“That's mighty sweet of you,” said Ralph happily.
“Anyways, you guys seem to have your hands full, so I best be getting out of your hair” she quickly added and started retreating towards the gate.
“Yes, yes lots to do” said Ralph, clearly excited with what they had planned for the day, making his way into the house.
Brandon just stood on the porch like a mannequin, watching her quickly scuttle out of the front gate and onto the lane towards her house.
The doorbell rang just around seven, as she was about to go make dinner. Confident it was probably Alexis or Jackie coming to check on her, she opened the door grinning widely but stopped short at the sight of Brandon looming in front of her doorway.
“Hi” he started; “Mrs. Hubert dropped a casserole for me for dinner and asked me to drop one to you since she had to rush to the store.” he explained, extending forward a cling film wrapped dish toward her.
“Oh! Umm. . . . Thank you,” she stuttered.
“I also wanted to apologize for earlier today,” he continued apologetically, “I think I may have been a tad cold in my demeanor towards you.” he quickly added.
“Oh that's alright, I did come around unannounced, and you were clearly busy” she interjected.
“Yes, well, the kitchen sink and I had a minor disagreement, but we sorted it out now.”
He smiled, then looked at her and hesitantly added, “But I do think that you had more to say than you did- thanks to my icy cold demeanor.” he completed.
She stared at him then smiled and said, “Would you like to come in?”
He didn't wait for another invite, he smiled gratefully and took a step forward.
She led him towards the living room and gestured toward the couch to have a seat.
“My apologies, I've recently become very dull and unsociable, I guess,” she started, “I think it was me who was really tongue-tied this morning.”
“No problem. Let's start afresh,” he said, smiling, “Hi. I'm Brandon Davis, and I've just moved here from Boston.”
“Hi, I'm Megan Strait, and I've lived here all my life.” She said smiling.
They laughed together at their weird introduction.
“So. . . . that's a lot of casserole for one person. Would you like to may be stay for dinner?” She inquired, surprisingly, silently wanting for him to say yes.
“Sure. As long as you help me with mine. I've got enough supply of welcome casseroles and desserts to last me a week!
They both laughed a hearty laugh- and with that, the ice was broken.
They chatted right through dinner, and she was surprised how easily she could make conversation with him. It felt nice to speak to someone on anything other than her grief. After a while, she remembered the photograph.
“So I have sort of a weird question to ask you.” she started, “Does the name Scottie holds any significance to you?”
He had been helping her clear up the dinner table but stopped short then at her question, looking completely stunned.
"Yes, why do you ask?” He questioned, eyes narrowed. She walked up to the drawer of her entry table, fished out the picture and handed it to him.
“Does this belong to you?”
He looked at her incredulously and asked with surprise, “How did you get this?”
"I found it on my porch yesterday morning along with some movement company flyers. Thought it most likely to belong to someone new here, and since I didn't know any Scottie on the lane and you being new on the block. . . .”
“That's the reason you came by yesterday,” he completed quietly, slowly sitting on the nearby chair.
“Yes.” she replied.
She looked at him intently, staring at the picture. He had suddenly gone quiet and seemed melancholy.
“Yes, well, thank you very much for this. It means a lot. It's um. . . very important to me; this photograph.” he said, still looking at the photograph.
She started clearing up again, leaving him with his thoughts for a bit. Then suddenly without warning, he stood up, gave an excuse of having to leave, quickly said thank you and goodbye and swiftly walked out the front door leaving her aghast at his reaction.
It was not until another three casseroles shared that Megan learned the real reason behind the puzzling reaction she witnessed of him.
Brandon remained mum about the whole incident since that day, as though it never happened. He initially acted very perturbed and edgy around her every time they met, but gradually he relaxed and then the casserole sharing started.
He seemed to be very popular on Hartford Lane; as even a month after, the casseroles — some now substituted to desserts, kept coming in.
She enjoyed his company a lot; he was sweet, understanding, and easy on the eyes! But most importantly she felt extremely comfortable talking to him, sharing with him, like as if she knew him for ages. Then one day, she opened up to him about her pain and unhappiness. She told him about Dad, their ice fishing trip, the sleet on the road back, the accident and the survivors guilt she had felt ever since. He was sympathetic and consoling.
After a while he went radio silent; visually in deep thought and fidgeting with his fingers.
Suddenly, while still playing with his fingers, he said, “The woman in the picture was my mother. I lost her to pancreatic cancer three years ago”
“I'm so sorry, Brandon.” she said.
“She used to call me Scottie because I loved being a sailor as a kid.” again he paused.
Anticipating more to follow, she kept silent and let him continue.
“The photograph came with a note; a note of strength. See, she knew what would happen once she had passed; that I would shut down and retreat into myself with misery. She had been my world; so my grief ate me up alive so much that I left living, lost friends, lost my job.”
He stopped and then looked up at her for a second, then licking his lips he continued.
“In her note, she told me she would help me find solace, she would lead my ship to harbor. She promised she would guide me out of my grief and stormy weather even after she had gone, and that I would just need to have patience and I would find my anchor.
So, when you handed me the photograph that day. . . . . "
He looked straight at her with conviction on his face, “I know I just met you, and you will find it very forthright of me to say or think this, but I feel completely at home with you. I am able to share with you my innermost thoughts like I haven't been able to share with anyone in the last three years.”
Megan walked over to him and gently put her hands over his clasped palms to soothe him.
“It's the same for me too, Brandon. You're the first person I've spoken to about my pain since Dad passed.
I don't know what it is Brandon, but I feel connected to you too.”
She smiled at him reassuringly. “Perhaps, your mum knew to find someone as invested in grief as you were so that we would be able to help each other out.” she said casually.
He smiled at her, tears welling in his eyes. “I thought you would find it absurd and abnormal for me to think that she had some role to play in us meeting, so I was very hesitant to tell you.”
“Oh, no! Don't worry, I'm all sorts of a crazy too, you'll soon see!” she said jokingly.…
From there on, their friendship gradually grew tenfold. They were each other's anchors, guiding the other through every weather. They celebrated in the joys and the sorrows together, enjoyed the good times and shared in the not so good and when they got married; they were there to walk the other down the aisle. Their friendship was real and mature and beautiful, and it had provided them an anchor when all they could see was darkness.
The one thing they both believed was that the friendship that they had found in each other was all because of a mother's love for her son and her promise to help him find peace, comfort and companionship, long after she was gone.