Isolated, scared, alone. These are the words that come to mind as I stare at Mary-Jane's face. Light bounces off of the droplets cascading down her porcelain cheeks. The funeral was all but empty, Mary-Jane, my father, and I as well as a priest and Lady Fisher from the town's bakery was surrounding the casket as her body was laid to rest. Mary-Jane's Mother, Orabelle, passed only a few days ago from a lifelong sickness that kept her indoors most of her life. Her daughter was a miracle, and now she's left alone in that huge house by the aqueduct.
For weeks after the funeral my father would take me to visit her, bringing sweets and small amounts of money to get her by. We were the closest neighbors she had and my father had befriended her mother the day we moved in. He had been doing everything he could to get the smallest of smiles as his goal but it wasn't enough.
She found herself a job working at the bakery with Lady Fisher and was finally out of the house, however, it seemed sadness followed her everywhere as the stares of pity could be found on every corner. The town had no thought of attending the funeral and consoling this distraught 18-year-old girl, yet they judge her so readily as if her life was the plot to their monotone existences. Mary-Jane seemed to lose weight, she never came back to school and a smile never graced her face.
Yet it was spring when the world seemed to change. As I rode my bike down dirt roads, hearing the crunching of the tires, feeling the breeze sweep by and the smell of fresh flowers filled the air. My path takes me past the beautiful yet haunting pallor, large pillars stand guard protecting a house built only of darkened bricks, each window obstructed by dark curtains and a winding path of gravel and overgrown weeds. It was at this exact view where I halted in my path.
Spring brought many things. Flowers blooming, birds hatching, bees pollinating and the weather is perfect for adventure and fun. It was the perfect time of year and its faults were almost nil. My breath caught idle in my throat, my eyes were unable to look away from a sight more beautiful than the flower she was holding.
Mary-Jane had knelt beside a marigold bush. Her own golden locks flowing behind her from the spring breeze. She held the flower delicately in her hand and closed her eyes taking in the sweet smell. A smile adorned her face, so bright it made it feel as though the world had slowed down and gone quiet just to take it all in. So pure and raw that you'd have thought she always smiled so lovingly. She was beautiful.
My heart was racing, a blush filling my cheeks, and eyes stuck on her. It was then that her eyes opened and she saw me there, standing and staring as if I'd never seen her before. Before the smile could leave her face or my mind I climbed back onto my bike and sped home without a glance back.
From that day on, Mary-Jane would tend to her marigold flowers at exactly 4 in the afternoon every day. It became my habit to reach her house at the same time and witness the precious smile she kept only for those flowers. Nearing the end of spring I decided it was time to ask her why just these flowers deserved her beautiful smile.
She looked up with a warm loving glint in her eyes and said, "My mother used to say that a marigold symbolizes the sun and happiness and that although life was hard, she said I was her marigold." A single tear escaped her eye and made a slow descent down her cheek. She looked towards the sky with a small smile as if she had finally accepted her mother was happy just watching over her, and she was ready to live her life.
5 years later.
My hands covered her eyes and she giggled asking me to give her a hint of the surprise I had ready for her. I had been working relentlessly trying to finish this project without her finding out and in time for the anniversary of her mother's passing. My effort had paid off. We walked forward slowly, guiding her as best I could so she does not fall and hurt herself. We finally reached our destination and I stopped to take in what I had accomplished.
"Are you ready Mary-Jane?" I asked, smiling at the small giggles she released, she loves surprises. "Just show me already I'm too excited." Without a second thought, I took my hands away from her face and moved beside her to see her reaction. It was just as I hoped she was shocked and gawped with her mouth wide open and eyes wide. Laughing I grabbed her by the hand and brought her towards it.
Before Mary-Jane and I stood a greenhouse. Built at the end of a trail rarely used behind the house with a decorative fence surrounding it. Sliding open the door I allow her to enter first to take it all in. Expecting a smile, or a hug I waited to see what she did next. What I didn't expect was for her to fall to the ground in tears with her face held between her hands.
The room was lightly lit, every inch adorned with flowers. Marigold flowers. They filled the room with only small patches of other flowers just to give some variety. A sign that hangs on the back wall read 'Orabelle's Garden' with intricate flowers drawn below it. The greenhouse was made so that she would be able to tend her marigold flowers every day rather than every spring. To keep the memory of Orabelle still fresh and vivid in our minds so that she is never forgotten.
Mary-Jane eventually stood to her feet. She turned to me with a tear-stained face and a smile that reminded me of the first time I saw it. The smile told me that she was happy and that everything I had done had made her happy. At that very moment, I promised myself that I will make sure that her smile lasts forever.