by super sleuth
Loneliness can affect more than just the living
|The solitary old bench stood hidden away between two overgrown shrubs, years of neglect evident in it's peeling paint. No one seemed to remember it was even there, it was like a cast off shoe- alone and forgotten. It was hidden in a secluded section of the park where no one ever seemed to visit.
One chilly autumn day, a small six year old girl with long, blond, tangled hair climbed upon the bench and sat down all alone. She never spoke, she just sat there sliding her hand across the well worn surface of the bench. The solitude and comfort of the old bench made her feel safe. Every morning at 8:00 a.m. she would come and sit and each evening at dusk she would leave.
The girl's sadness, evident in her every move, bothered the bench. The days were getting colder and the October winds chilled the little girl. The wind whistled through the trees and the frost glistened like diamond dust on the drab green grass, and yet every morning the little girl came and sat as if she were waiting for something, or someone.
Her thread worn coat was useless against the chilling wind. She shivered in the cold and rubbed her hands together to try and keep them warm. The bench was concerned the little girl would get sick, so it asked the wind to blow the leaves from the trees so that when the little girl came she could cover herself and nestle in their warmth.
So every night the wind would do as the bench asked. It would increase it's strength and swirl the leaves high up into the air and let them gently flutter down like thousands of butterflies. The leaves would float carefully down upon the bench, making a cozy nest for the sad little bird like creature.
Every morning after the sun came up, the girl would come and lie down under the leaves and softly caress the wooden bench. The bench seemed to come alive and would radiate a warmth from within each time she gently touched it. Sometimes the girl would fall asleep while nestled in her cozy abode and sometimes she would just hum a silly childish tune. The bench wished she would sing the words for he longed to hear her sweet voice.
The bench wondered why the girl never spoke. Was she a mute? He wished he could talk to her and ask her why she was so sad. He wanted to comfort her and tell her that she was not alone.
On one extremely cold morning the girl failed to appear. The bench was very worried and so he sent the wind to find her. The wind finally circled it's way back after winding through all the streets and alleys in the small sleepy village. The solemn wind told the bench that the little girl had died. She died of loneliness and starvation.
Her parents had died three weeks prior in an accident and she was left all alone. She had run away from her foster home in search of her parents. She did not understand why they left her with strangers. The bench was very sad, it would miss the little girl's gentle touch. She had provided the forgotten lonely bench with companionship and love and the bench loved her in return.
One blustery cold morning about a week later the bench heard someone say, "Hello bench."
Startled by the unexpected voice, the bench seemed to shiver, as the wind blew upon the leaves, scattering them to the ground. The unfamiliar voice seemed happy to see it, and as the owner of the voice stepped closer and spoke again, the bench beamed in happiness.
"Hi," she said. "My name is Alley, and I love you kind bench," the little six year old girl said as she climbed upon the bench, smiling as she sat down.
The bench thought that she was the most beautiful child it had ever seen. Her broad smile brighten up the dreary October morning and her touch seemed to send a comforting feeling through every inch of its shabby structure. The child made the bench feel like it did when it was new.
Her smile seemed to radiate warmth as the coldness of the morning air seemed to dissipate and was replaced by the warmth in her laughing eyes. Eyes that seemed alive and sparkled like emeralds glistening in the sun.
Softly the girl began to stroke the peeling wooden slats. The bench wondered why the wind had said the girl was dead, she seemed very much alive and healthy now.
Ever so sweetly Alley said, pointing at the two strangers approaching the bench, "Bench, I would like you to meet my mom and dad. They have come to take me home. Thank you bench for being my friend and taking care of me while I waited for my parents to find me."
The little girl quietly got up and walked toward her parents, she then turned and waved at the
bench and said good-by. Grasping each of her parent's hands, they turned and walked slowly into the morning mist, and the swirling leaves blown by the chilling wind, carefully erased any traces of their visit.