She flittered and flew through the woods like a firefly. She glistened and glowed in the dark of night, while her wispy wings moved her, in and around the limbs of the trees. The wind shifted and her form wavered like a flame in the breeze.
She played in a make believe world, which she created. The next downturned wind carried Gwendolyn just outside the trees that lined her backyard. It was late, but she often stayed out until dark and waited for Mother’s call. Why hasn’t Mother called?
Gwendolyn, a girl without friends, often occupied unreal places. Eight years young, she learned to entertain herself. She never met her father and her mother was lost in her own private made up world. Neither one shared their world with the other. Many times, Gwendolyn watched Mother dance around the living room, pretending to be anywhere but where she was. Gwendolyn wished she could go there, too, but she had never been invited.
Floating like a feather, back to reality, she heard a sound coming from behind a dense cluster of trees. The sound of twigs snapping, one after another, so slowly at first….. “Who’s there?” Gwendolyn shuddered and held her breath. No one answered. The twigs snapped faster and louder, closer and closer they came. She gasped and ran toward the house. Her little steps were no match for the ones coming up behind her. She could here him breathing as clear as she could hear her own breath. She could smell the stale tobacco. A tug at her wing and a calloused hand on her shoulder…….finally she pulled away.
“Gwendolyn, it’s time for dinner.” She ran through the trees, relieved to hear her mother’s voice. She knocked open the gate and it slammed hard behind her. The front door still out of reach, she tore up the brick pathway. Gasping for air, she opened the door and with a quick turn of her head, glanced back over her shoulder. No one followed her. She leaned back on the door and gasped until she was able to breathe. She glided passed the mirror in the hallway and her reflection was gone. Gwendolyn stood in the doorway of the kitchen. The light above the sink cast a shadow over the room. The warmth of the stove and the aroma of chicken broth and mushrooms were all too familiar. Mother looked up at her with a soft and welcoming smile. “Please remove your wings, dear, before coming to the table,” she heard Mother say.
A single teardrop skimmed her cheek. The tear was for Mother, who was suffering her loss. Mother sat at the table set for two and dished out the chicken tetrazzini, Gwendolyn’s favorite. It had been two months, since Mother called her to come inside for dinner, but she never came. Mother looked for her, but she was nowhere to be found. She trembled at the thought of what might have happened to her little girl. She prayed that it did not. She mends the tear in the wing, repeatedly, waiting for Gwendolyn to return. She sits at the table that is set for two. “Gwendolyn, I’ve sewn your wing,” she sings. “Come here, my girl. Where are you?”
Looking across the room with empty eyes, her tears suspended in time. She lives in a world where Gwendolyn lived, but lives no longer. It had been months, since Gwendolyn disappeared. Mother peers out the window for hours at a time, waiting and waiting for her daughter to come running home. No one visits her. Neighbors back away with a look of pity, or perhaps, fear. When Mother isn’t staring out the window, she is preparing Gwendolyn’s favorite meal or repairing the tattered wing. Night after night, she looks to the glow of light for comfort.
The knock at the door, that she knew would come one day, brought her back from where she hides. She let them in. The county police shared the information they had just uncovered. She listened. Their mouths moved and she could see the sadness and caring in their eyes. She couldn’t hear…. or wouldn’t hear……their words.
Little Gwendolyn must have felt so frightened and alone. Where was her mother? Why didn’t she call? If only she had called….. but, she didn’t. Mother will now live with the sadness and the guilt. The neighborhood will continue to shun her and Gwendolyn will watch her as she stares into the darkness of the night.
One day, she will invite Mother to join in her new world…..when the time is right. Mother dances, no longer. Instead, she will wait to catch a glimpse of her firefly.