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Mystery

On and on it went. The thud of rain droplets colliding against the window pane, the endless torrent of the dull groans and murmurs of the swaying trees as they fought against the merciless wind outside. On such a night, Sol was glad that she was ensconced safely in her home. To make things better, the heat of the electric blanket draped over her knees made her first-edition copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn much more enticing and wonderful.

   “How is it?” Her foster mother Maggie asked, setting a tray of freshly baked scones onto the coffee table in front of Sol. “Isn’t it good? Just like I told you.”

   “Really good.”

   “How about we have a lil’ discussion about it once Charles gets back from work,” Maggie said, leaning back in the armchair opposite Sol’s and picking up her current novel.

   Sol was glad that she had Maggie and Charles as her foster parents. They were never too pushy with wanting Sol to accept them, and they treated her well. The food at their house was not bad either. It made Sol forget about her rather wretched beginning, and look forward to living life with the Kents.

   The front door slammed shut, indicating that Charles was back home from the hospital. Within five seconds, he emerged into the living room where Sol and Maggie were, hair dripping wet from the rain. A thin, soaking t-shirt clung to his skin, a peculiar top to be wearing during the middle of a cold and rainy Manhattan spell. 

   “Charles! Why aren’t you wearing a coat?” Maggie exclaimed, rushing up to him with worried eyes. “Sol, get towels from the third drawer in the kitchen.”

   But Charles didn’t seem to notice the frantic rubdown he received from his wife, instead starting hazily into space. In fact, he was not at all bothered by the disheveled and unkempt state of his being. Sol noticed this, and said worriedly, “What’s wrong Charles?”

   “I need to confess something, Mags.” His shoulders stiffened as he looked at Maggie seriously. “Sol—”

   “Got it. I’ll leave.” Sol tried to disguise the hurt in her voice as concern, but Maggie immediately said sharply, “Sol’s family now. Whatever you have to say, you can say in front of her.”

   Sol bit her lip. “No, it’s fine Maggie—”

   “I want you to go outside, Sol. Once you see, you’ll know what to do.” Charles smiled weakly at her.

   A bit startled by this weird task, Sol walked hesitantly towards the door. Behind her, Maggie was asking Charles in a worried tone, “What’s the meaning of this?”

   And so, Sol flung the door open. Expecting to find a pizza box or some weird surprise, she found herself staring into some sort of time-warping mirror. A shivering, bedraggled girl dressed in a too-big red coat that dragged onto the floor, and flip flops. Her skin was deathly pale and mottled with blue veins that popped out scarily from her bony arms and legs. Hair as black as midnight gave Sol the impression that she was an angel of death. Sol blinked.

   Five years earlier, Sol had been this girl. But in the now and present, it was a different girl. But in a way, similar.

   “Can I help you?”

   The waif pointed a finger behind Sol’s shoulder. Sol turned back, and realised what she meant—Charles had brought her home. This was the surprise. And because Sol had once been this girl, she knew what to do.

   She brought the tiny girl inside, not noticing that Maggie and Charles were no longer in the living room. She wrapped her in an extra thick blanket, put the kettle on the boil, and drew a hot bath in the washroom. 

   “Your name?”

   The girl didn’t say anything. She just sat on the edge of her kitchen stool with clenched eyes and fists, rocking back and forth. Sol knew not to press on further. After all, it had taken a good week for herself to respond to Maggie and Charles.

   “Sol?” She jumped at the sudden weakness in Maggie’s voice. “Come here for a second.”

   “Hold on.” Putting a kindly arm around the girl, Sol escorted her towards the bathroom. She dipped an elbow in the bath, and said, “The bath’s ready. You don’t have to take off your clothes. Just sit in the bath and warm up. I’ll bring some hot cocoa to you, along with clean clothes. Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be fine.”

   Once Sol entered Maggie and Charles’s room, Maggie smiled wearily at her and patted the space next to her on the bed. Charles was staring out the window, watching rivulets of water run down the glass. “Sit here for a little while, babes.”

   “Is she okay?” Charles asked quietly. 

   “Yes.” Charles nodded and walked out, closing the door gently behind him.

   “You must have a lot of questions.” Maggie said softly, watching Sol’s solemn face. 

   “Not at all,” Sol lied. Maggie chuckled.

   “It’s fine pet. You’re such a good girl.” Wrapping a comforting arm around Sol, she began to talk. “She’s Charles’s daughter.”

   Sol dug her fingers into her palm to prevent her from yelping out in shock. Or making any sort of reaction. She just nodded stoically and tried to drink this revelation in with respect and dignity.

   “Charles had a daughter before meeting me. They broke up shortly after the child turned two. And then I met Charles, we got married. He provided money for her every month for the past seven years of our marriage, without me ever knowing. But today, his ex got admitted to the hospital. Turns out she’s a heroin junkie, and Charles only found out when she got wheeled into the A&E this morning. He told me everything five minutes ago.”

   “And you trust him?” The words spilled out before Sol could stop them. 

   “Yes. I do trust him.” Maggie sighed. “Sol … you may not have noticed, but we love each other deeply. Yes, we don’t hug and kiss often. But our type of love doesn’t need those sorts of flimsy affirmations. Love can be shown through more quieter ways—one being trust. I may have felt angry and resistant at first, but I’m trying my best to stay level-headed and clear-minded. I know that Charles has had his reasons for keeping his past a secret. It may be to protect his child and her mother, to protect you and I, to protect all of us. So have a little faith. Understand where he is coming from, and don’t be too angry at him. Sympathise with him, and with his child and her mother. They don’t have anyone else in the world except for Charles. I want to help … I hope that you will too. They need all the love we have to offer."

   Sol looked up into her face, and saw a look of powerful warmth and love wash over her face. Yes, she now had confirmation that her foster parents did indeed love each other, and her. There was never not enough love for everyone. Love was like a rubber boat; it stretched and expanded to fit everyone onboard. Her’s most definitely had space for two extra people.

   Maggie stood up, patting Sol’s knee. “I think I’ll go see Amanda, see how she’s doing.” She offered a hand to the daughter she loved with all her heart. “Let’s go.”

   With a tender smile, Sol got up and took her mother’s hand.

April 12, 2020 10:11

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2 comments

Crystal Lewis
05:08 Apr 19, 2020

I like your descriptions of everything and I think it's a very sweet story. :)

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Taliah Melur
05:37 Apr 19, 2020

omgg thank you so much <3

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