So, yeah. I kept my mouth shut.
Greyson’s left hand kept tapping against his thighs as he drove. If it were anyone else, I would’ve overlooked it, but I knew Greyson and his habits.
You’re nervous, too.
We parked the car, walked through the forested area, and flashes of our teenage years came rushing back to me. Greyson and I had so many moments beside that hidden pond. Moments that saved me. Moments that defined me. Moments that would lead me through the rest of my life.
We laughed there.
We cried there.
We shared our first kiss…
“It’s crazy being back here after all this time,” he mentioned, shaking me from my thoughts. I was thankful for that, too, seeing as how my thoughts were being disloyal to my brain.
In my head, I knew developing feelings for a widower was a terrible idea. But that heart of mine? It didn’t give a damn about what my brain thought. It simply kept beating in the direction of Greyson.
We sat on the log where we always sat, and that amazed me. The log was still there, steady and grounded, as it had been all the years before.
“It’s still as beautiful,” he stated. “Maybe even more so than before.”
“I think that every time I come,” I agreed. “It’s as if I notice something new every single time.”
He tilted his head toward me. “Are you okay, Ellie?” he asked. “I know how hard days like today can be…”
I smiled and placed my hands on the log. “Yeah, I’m okay. I mean, for a long time this day was hard for me. But as the years go by, it stops hurting as much. You start replacing sadness with gratitude. You just kind of become grateful for the memories. It becomes easier to breathe when grief is replaced with thankfulness.”
“I can’t wait for that day to come,” he said, placing his hands on the log, too. Our pinkies kind of brushed, and I felt the touch deep within my soul.
“No need to rush it,” I promised. “Just feel what you need to feel, and over time your feelings will shift into something else. Something beautiful. The best thing about death is that it can’t take away your memories. Those live on forever.”
He lowered his head and took a deep breath. “You always know what to say when I need it the most. Even when I don’t want to hear it, it’s as if you know the words I need.”
I snickered. “That pretty much describes what you were for me when we were younger. You were my safety net that kept me from drowning.”
Greyson grew somber for a moment, looking up at the darkening sky. “I still don’t understand all of this…”
“Us. You and me. You showing up when you did. I don’t get it.”
“It does seem a bit wild, doesn’t it?”
“I don’t know if I believe in an afterlife,” he confessed. “I watch Lorelai talking to her mother, and I pray that it’s real, for her own sake. But I don’t know if there is a God, or angels, or anything of the likes. Yet when I was at my lowest... When I was so overwhelmed and broken, I went to her. I went to Nicole, and I sat in front of her gravestone, and I fell apart. I begged her for help, for guidance, for anything at all… I was searching for a reason to smile…” He swallowed hard, clasping his hands together, and looked at me. His eyes were so gentle, and calm. Those gray eyes… He sniffled a bit, shrugged his right shoulder, and softly spoke, “And then came you.”
“Sorry,” he breathed out, growing a little red in the face.
He was nervous. I was nervous, too. To be honest I wasn’t certain if it was his nerves I was feeling, or my own.
“I’m glad I could be here for you,” I told him. “Besides, I owed you.”
“Keeping me from drowning.”
He smiled and stared out at the pond. “I think now we can call it even.”
We sat there for a while longer, not really saying anything at all, not needing words.
We were just there in the wilderness, calming our souls. And every now and then, a dragonfly buzzed by.
“You know how you always worry about Karla?” I asked him.
“That’s how I worry about my father. All the time. I just have this bad feeling that he’s falling deeper into his depression, and even if he needed me, he wouldn’t reach out. It terrifies me every single day.”
“And you’ve tried to help him?”
“So much, and every year he pushes me away more. He’s drowning in loneliness, and he won’t take my hand.”
“It’s hard,” Greyson confessed. “It’s hard to take people’s help. And the more days that pass, the easier it becomes to push people away. Most people just fall off, too. They realize that it’s a hopeless cause—helping the broken souls. I know that’s what I did. I pushed everyone away, and only the ones who meant the most to me stayed around. You want my advice?”
“Keep calling. One day he’ll decide to pick up, and if he doesn’t, then go and kick down his door. If that doesn’t work, then know that you at least tried everything. You didn’t give up.”
I nodded. “Thank you, Greyson.”
When it came time to leave, we both stood from the log.
I took in a deep breath and paused. “Do you think I can take a minute alone?” I asked him. “Just to talk to my mom?”
“Of course.” He stuffed his hands into his pockets. “I’ll meet you at the car.” He wandered away leaving me there alone with Mom.
I knew she was there, I could feel her energy surrounding me.
There were so many moments in my life when I felt lost, moments when I didn’t know if I should go left or right. I doubted myself and the choices I made, felt like I was drowning, and on those days, I’d hold conversations with Mom and tell her my story.
As I stood in front of the water that gently shifted back and forth, I asked her for her help, for her guidance, for her to look over Dad in a way that I couldn’t.
Then I closed my eyes, felt the light breeze against my skin, and was thankful because somehow, my mother was magic. Somehow, she had been able to cheat death. Even though her physical form was gone, I felt her spirit sweep across me every single day.
Whenever I asked for her help, she never hesitated to show me the way. Some people called it signs, others called it blessings, but I simply called it my mother’s kisses.
She guided me through the darkness while promising there’d be light at the end.
So no matter what happened, I knew everything would be okay.
Because a mother’s love is enough to surpass time and space.
A mother’s love never vanishes.
A mother’s love can always heal her daughter’s heart with simple kisses in the wind.
“Happy birthday, Mom,” I whispered, wiping the tears that found a way to fall from my eyes.
I didn’t know if they were happy tears or sad, but it didn’t matter. As long as I was still feeling emotions, I knew I’d be all right.
Weeks passed, and Eleanor’s and my friendship only grew more and more. Just like when we were younger. She listened to me whenever I needed to talk. She sat through the dark days with me, not asking me for anything, but just staying by my side. Eleanor was also a great wingwoman. I’d been around Karla more these past few weeks than I had the year before. Lately Karla didn’t even fight against us all hanging out, and sometimes I swore she even smiled just like her mother.
When Eleanor’s birthday came around, I knew I wanted to make it special for her. She’d been beyond life-changing for my family, for me, and I wanted to celebrate her for that exact reason. She was Ellie, and she was worth being celebrated.
The girls and I decorated the house for her, and Karla didn’t grumble too much about it. She even baked a cake with Lorelai. I was pretty certain it was burnt and there were probably eggshells in it, but they decorated it anyway.
Claire came over, and luckily she’d brought a cake of her own for the celebration. It was probably a lot more edible.
“This is all too much,” Eleanor exclaimed as she grinned from cheek to cheek once we brought her over for the celebration. “You didn’t have to do all of this.”
“Of course we did. You’re an important part of this family, and in this family we celebrate important days,” Claire said.
Hearing those words come from her lips was so meaningful. If there was anyone who was a professional at making a person feel loved, it was Claire. She loved in a way that was so loud, and she always found more love to hand out whenever it was needed.
“Girls, do you think we should give Eleanor her gift?” I asked.
“Yeah!” Lorelai cheered, hurrying over to the table and picking up the wrapped box with Eleanor’s name on it. “Here, Ellie.”
Eleanor’s eyes widened. “You guys really didn’t have to get me anything,” she said.
“Of course we did—it’s your birthday! Now, it’s nothing big, but we all put in some work on it,” I told her.
“Even Karla helped!” Lorelai remarked.
Karla huffed. “Don’t make a big deal of it. It’s whatever.”
Oh, my angst-filled teenager. What a joy.
Eleanor began to open the box, and the moment she saw what was inside, her eyes watered over and her hand flew to her mouth. “Grey…” she whispered.
“Pull it out,” I told her, nodding toward it.
She reached into the box and pulled out a crocheted dragonfly cardigan. Tears began falling down her cheeks as she hugged the fabric. She kept staring at it in awe, taking it in.
“Do you like it?” Lorelai asked.
“Oh, my gosh, I adore it, Lorelai—more than I can say.” She looked over to me. “How did you…you made this?”
“Yeah. After a lot of YouTube videos and wasted yarn, it came together pretty well. The girls each put in a few of their own loops, too. The dragonflies were all Claire, though. I’m not that talented. So, it’s from all of us.”