A lovely day

Mary, Mary quite contrary? How does your garden grow? With silverbells and cockleshells…

The flowers seemed to sway to Josephine’s lilting voice as the elderly woman cheerfully tended to her garden. Sparrows swooped about and joined her song, celebrating the upcoming spring. Josephine smiled as she gave the mound of dirt in front of her one final pat. What a lovely day. She voiced her thought, and the sparrows responded with enthusiastic chirps. Pressing her hands against the ground, she got up from the flower bed, grimacing a little as her old knees fought against her.

“Oh, to be young again.” Her wistful voice quieted the birds. She liked to imagine they were contemplating her statement. Deeming it unimportant, they resumed their twittering chorus. Josephine chuckled. How lovely birds are, with their ever-upbeat songs. Simply lovely.

Josephine hobbled to her kitchen, turned on the faucet and watched as the water swirled the dirt off her hands and down the drain. It was going to be a lovely day. A lovely day. And what is more lovely than visiting a loved one? She smiled and set off toward town.

Josephine shuffled down the road at a slow and comfortable gait. The air felt fresh, new. It was new, she could argue, what with it being the beginning of a new century. 1900. A new century–and spring had begun to arrive. It really did make her feel old. She contemplated this with indifference. To be elderly did not mean anything bad; it simply meant she could observe this new era with a new perspective. New. New and lovely.

When she eventually arrived in the small town of Whitby, she was greeted by a boy waving a paper about in the street. She frowned. What were they called in America? Ah. Newsies.

“Horrible news!” His voice, still tinged with the squeakiness of adolescence, pierced the air. “People disappearing! Women, children, grandmothers–you name it. All gone!”

Worry lines appeared on Josephine’s face. No no no no no. She hobbled over and handed the boy a two-pence.

“Thank you, miss!” Such polite manners. What a lovely child.

He ran down the street, disappearing from her sight and mind. She opened the paper and her eyebrows furrowed.

Local child missing, family starts search for Henrietta Willis. The Willis girl. She often stopped by to help Josephine with her garden. She was so sweet. Josephine scanned the rest of the paper, taking in the names and descriptions that were so neatly arranged in rows in columns. Twenty-two people. There were more names than last time. Josephine sighed and folded up the paper. She needed to clear her head. Gardening. Gardening was lovely.

With renewed purpose, Josephine tottered down the road to the Whitby General Store and pushed on the heavy oak door. The silver bell above the door threshold sang. Ting-a-ling-a-ling. Such a lovely sound.

The burly man behind the counter startled at the sound and then gave her a burdened smile. She beamed back at him.

“Hello, Ms. Josephine.” His usually chipper voice sounded forced–faked. He was typically so cheerful. He must have seen the news.

“Well hello, Charles. How are you this lovely spring day?”

His facade fell, and she could spot how deep his worry ran.

“Ms. Josephine, I’m a little spooked. Tom Willis–from down the street, ya know old Tom? Well, his little one disappeared last night, right from ‘er bedroom. Window was cracked open, and they found the cockleshells underneath the ‘sill were trampled. There’s talk someone might’ve taken ‘er.”

Josephine grimaced. This was not lovely, not lovely at all.

“Well Charles, I’m sure she’ll resurface eventually. She still has that lovely energy that accompanies youth. I would bet she’s off having her own little adventure right now.”

Charles stared at her, unconvinced.

“Ya think? She’s just twelve, Ms. Josephine.”

Josephine tapped the side of her nose and smiled. Why? She couldn’t say. What lovely habits one picks up as they age.

“I’m nearly certain of it, Charles.” She looked around at the shelves crammed full of this-and-that and wandered over to the area where the gardening tools were, clearly ending the conversation.

“Now tell me, Charles, how is your lovely wife doing?”

He grudgingly switched topics and answered her question as she gathered her items. What a wonderful, lovely activity. To be able to engage in conversation with a dear friend is truly a lovely gift.

“Back to gardening, eh?” he asked as he wrote down what she was purchasing. She fondly looked down at her hand trowel, rake and piles upon piles of seeds.

“Yes, I suppose I am.”

He gave her a quizzical look.

“Ya seem to have been gardening quite a bit recently, Ms. Josephine.”

What. Her nostrils flared with her temper. She took a deep breath and plastered a sweet smile on her face.

“Well, ever since Albert died, I’ve had quite a bit of free time, my dear.”

There. Charles flushed, his face beet-red, and stammered an apology as she brushed her purchases into her basket and swept out the door. No one should have to think about their dead spouse on such a lovely day as this. 

What a waste of a lovely new day. No one should have to talk about that. What a waste…

Josephine halted in the middle of the road. No! The day could still be lovely–the day would still be lovely, even though it was no longer new. Lovely, lovely, lovely…

She turned down a side street and headed toward the graveyard. She would visit her husband. Her lovely husband who resided six feet below the flowers she adored to plant. Her wonderful husband who had provided her food and put a roof over her head. Her dear husband who was rather too critical of her gardening techniques. Her lovely husband Albert.

She trod through the open gates of the Whitby Town Cemetary and meandered her way through the headstones. She followed the familiar path up a hill to where her husband resided, his resting place. A small willow watched over it. It made such beautiful sounds when it moved in the wind. Such beautiful, lovely sounds.

Josephine sat down by his headstone and spoke to him, recounting their life together with laughing eyes and a merry voice. She stayed up there for hours, chatting, and–when she ran out of words to say–she sat with him in silence, listening to the quiet. Eventually, though, evening began to fall, signaling for her to leave. As she picked her way down the hill, the sun set the sky on fire. Clouds were alight in the most beautiful, lovely colors. Orange and yellow and pink and purple. What a lovely sunset, with such lovely colors. Lovely colors for a lovely day. Albert would have loved it.

Josephine plodded back down the road to her house, admiring the heavens and chittering to herself. It truly was a lovely day. Coming around the corner to her cottage, she stopped short. Something was in her lovely garden, sticking out among the flowers. Toddling over, she examined it. Pale and slender, adorned with a ring, sticking out of the ground. Josephine huffed and brushed some dirt over it. Fertilizer only works when it’s below ground.

And pretty maids all in a row.