Brad Loudon, Grade 12
Grace was a quiet woman. And these days she spoke less than ever. She had been at the aged care centre for almost six years, and as each day slipped by she seemed to blend more and more into the peaceful home. The flowing colours of her cotton dresses were so often splashed across the wicker chairs that one could easily fail to notice the bundle of grey, wispy hair which perched like a small cloud above her peacefully closed eyes. Her head would rest to one side, and she wore the content smile which burrowed into her soft wrinkles and had done since anyone could remember.
She spent most of her hours either dozing in her favourite chair which caught the warmth of the afternoon sun, or sitting around the old table with the other residents, sharing a cup of tea. In a strange, unspoken way these were her closest friends. The long days and never-ending afternoons, which they shared in an affectionate silence, each of them losing themselves in the intimate memories and spiralling trains of thought, bonded them in their mutual reflection. No one asked too many questions about anyone’s past, not because they lacked interest or politeness, but because each of them knew that life was as fleeting as the morning dew, and that it was a mistake to become too close to someone who might not be there the next day. The sunlight would play across the group of weathered faces, behind each a lifetime of stories and memories. The weariness and loneliness brought to the home a common willingness to let the tranquil existence be enough.
Such was the state of Miss Grace Somerville. Until the Hunter family moved in next door. The Hunter family was an agreeable family to say the least, and whatever they lacked in monetary gains, they surely made up for in love, kind-heartedness and happiness. The good nature of the Hunters radiated through the rickety wooden fence and began to seep into the framework of the aged care centre. The infectious giggling and squealing drifted over the fence and found its way into the ears of the elderly folk as they dozed. And it was from this most unlikely source that Grace found her hope. The warm touch of a child’s hand thawed her from her slumber, and as questions bubbled from the child’s mouth, Grace found her spirit returning. As it did, a warm rush pricked at the corners of her eyes. As the streaks of salty water trickled down the creases in her cheeks, she found herself not only remembering, but telling. Stories began to flow from her lips, jumbled at first, as the thoughts struggled to form words. They both began to smile, Nathan because he had found a new friend, and Grace because she had finally found what had been absent for so many years; someone who wanted to listen.