Old Fashioned Things - Lauren Glover
The haze shrouds the valley in a yellowish glow. I lie upon the grass, awkwardly using my jacket to avoid the stiff stalks stabbing into my back. The grass sways around me, and I can hear the hum of the insects as they whirl above the banks of the nearby stream.
I was looking for something, something I had lost. "Peace," my mind whispers, and the chant is taken up by a magpie that has alighted on a branch nearby. The streak across its body is the most vivid blue I have ever seen. How does that old rhyme go?
One if for sorrow, two for, for…
It didn't matter. I close my eyes again, breathing in deeply. The smell of the grass mingles with the dusty smell of my clothing. Too much time spent inside. Too much time spent. Peace. The word echoes again through the noise of the stream. It’s present in the buzzing of the oblivious insects.
I open my eyes, wondering if it’s written in the grass. I see a daisy. How long since I picked one? How long since I ceased to notice their simple beauty? I lean over, intent on claiming the flower as my own.
A soft, chill hand brushes mine, much smaller than my own. While I pause in bewilderment, it reaches out and plucks the tiny beauty. A little boy smiles at me. His hair is dark, as are his eyes, but they have a merry glint to them as he sticks his tongue out at me, then runs towards the stream. A trail of childish laughter floats after him, surrounding me in its peals. "Peace," it says to me.
There’s a little girl near the stream, her dark hair as short as the boy’s. She wears a printed dress, and even from where I sit, I can see it’s patterned with daisies. A bouquet of the little flowers are in her hands, and she’s singing a strange, tuneless song to herself. Why had I not heard it before? As I watch, she sits down cross-legged, and begins to braid the daisies together with the grass, still humming. The boy gets down on his knees to present her with the single daisy. She exclaims in delight. More laughter. I close my eyes. They are happy in their own little world. I feel so heavy.
I lie back down, letting my mind drift. I listen like a drowning man to the occasional laughter and the constant, tuneless humming. My hands settle across my chest, crossed and clenched in fists. How dare they be so happy? How dare they know peace? But my anger subsides eventually. It is hard to remain in that state, and the darkness is beginning to encroach. My magpie has gone, looking for quieter hunting grounds, but I am still here searching my mind for the answers I need.
The children appear on both sides of me. They seem to slip through the grass, barely making it stir as they approach the stranger. The girl is still humming.
I sit up, but slowly so I don't startle them. Nothing moves and the boy grins down at me once again, his face in shadow. He reaches out and lightly touches my crossed arms. A shiver passes through me. He does it over and over, laughing out loud as I shudder at the unexpected feeling. His hands seem to be reaching through me.
The girl's song takes on a melody, so ancient it sends another chill through my beleaguered body. The boy laughs again as he plunges his hand in and out. I arch upwards and attempt with all my will to get up. This wasn't what I had come here for, was it? "Peace," I breathe out as once again the child's hand caresses my heart. The song stops.
The boy is staring at the girl, the smile gone from his angelic face. She is looking down at me, a strange quirk to her lips. I notice for the first time the garland of daisies in her hair. She glances up at the boy, then reaches up slowly to pluck a single daisy from her endless chain. She brings it up to her lips and kisses it before holding it up before her. She hands it shyly to the boy. He glances down at it, his eyes dark, but then he smiles at her and at me. Gently, he reaches for my crossed hands. Never touching them, he manages to slip the daisy into the place where they meet. The girl wanders away again, singing. I cannot see her for long, but I notice that behind her the forest seems very dark.
The boy laughs as my eyes go back to him. He leans over me but stops with his face inches from mine. "Peace," he says seriously. He walks away through the grass, and this time he is singing his own song. A children's ditty, one I knew long ago, but whose words are now long forgotten. I close my eyes again.
An owl hoots some time later and I gather myself to sit up, still clutching the daisy tightly in my hands. When had the singing stopped? The light has almost faded, but I am suddenly full of energy. I search the small clearing. Where have the children gone? The grass is too long to note their passing, so I sweep it away with my feet as I circle the clearing, looking for my lost children.
My foot hits something hard and I stop. Getting down on my knees, I push the grass out of my way. A small stone stands there, rough in form, with a faded inscription on it. “My peace I give to you,” it says, along with a name. How long had it lain here under the sea of grass? My heart stands still, as I find another next to it. Draped across the top of the stone is a ring of dried up daisies.
Lauren is currently in Korea doing her dissertation research for her PhD in archaeology. She laments not having the time to write like she did in undergrad. In her non-existent spare time, she works on her book(s), and looks for agents for one already completed novel.