This freebie story for my Work Under Revision; Wind Me Up, One More Time was the result.
Three small heads leaned close to each other within the confines to the treehouse.
“This is a game devised by Carrot Monster.” Heidi thrust her stuffed rabbit forward for emphasis. “It’s called ‘Find the Shawl’.”
“‘Find the Shawl’?” Heather gave her intended ‘fiancee’ an incredulous look. “If Carrot Monster came up with this, shouldn’t it be ‘Find the Carrot’ or ‘Find the Vegetable Patch’ or something more like that?”
“Of course not. Carrot Monster designed this game for humans.” Heidi pointed out with the strained patience of one who had to deal with Heather’s questions on a regular basis. “Somehwere in this treehouse or within sight of it is one of your mother’s shawls. It’s up to the rest of us to find it.”
“Mrs. Grumple’s shawl?” Grace asked. She’d only ever once seen their teacher, Heather’s mother wear one pink wool wrap, jarring against the gray of her blouse and skirt. “I wasn’t sure if she ever took it off.”
It wasn’t like Mrs. Grumple to misplace anything.
“It’s not that shawl.” Heidi lowered her voice for a dramatic pause, a shameless imitation of Nathalie. “It’s a very special one, going back before Mrs. Grumple was Mrs. Grumple.”
“My mother wore it when she was young.” Heather gave Heidi a sour look. “She used to parade around in it long before I was born.”
“Really?” Grace tried to picture Mrs. Grumple being young and failed.
“Really!” Heidi grinned. “You wouldn’t believe this shawl! It’s got a red, green, and various blues patterned like an eye, with dashes of purple and violet! I’ve never seen so much color?”
“Your mother used to wear something like that?” Grace considered the lean, severe woman in her black shoes, long gray shirts, full blouse with tight, buttoned collars, who scowled at the red jackets over full green skirts or slacks Grace wore on Free Dress Day at school. The only color Mrs. Grumple ever wore was the shawl.
“Yes, my mother used to wear something like that. Yes, she used to like color. Yes, she used to be young!” Heather rose to her feet and marched over to a shelf covered with books, adorned with paper mache animals and picture frames. “Look!”
She grabbed one of the pictures and thrust it under Grace’s nose.
Two young women grinned back from behind the glass covering. One of them had Heather’s corkscrew curls, tied with rainbow ribbons, matching the brilliant stole wrapped around her shoulders. Yes, it did have a pattern like peacock feathers or a series of eyes, shadowed with violet and purple, swirling with red, green, and various shades of blue.
The second young woman smiled with Heidi’s large, white teeth, a straw hat perched jauntily on her head, sporting a number of rainbow streamers.
“Heidi, is that your mom?” Grace blinked at the two happy girls, standing in the middle of an open field.
“Believe it or not, Mrs. Grumple and my mother used to be inseparable.” Heidi glanced over at Heather. “It’s one of the reasons I’ve known Heather for most of my life.”
“My mother changed after my father died.” Heather dropped her head, not meeting anyone’s eye. “She stopped wearing colors. She also stopped being friends with Heidi’s mother.”
“I remember that shawl from when I was little.” Heidi closed her eyes. “She used to tickle my mother and Heather’s father with it, doing this dance, singing this silly song about being a peacock. It was fun.”
“She was fun.” Heather pressed the picture against her chest and shut her eyes. “So much fun.”
*Carrot Monster, I’m uncertain if this game is in the best taste.* Theodora, the bear wrapped under Grace’s arm, send this silent rebuke to the manner of stuffed animals to the rabbit lying near Heidi’s knee. *It’s making Heather sad, your own child a little sad, and Grace uncomfortable.*
*The game is already over.* Carrot Monster lay on her side, one long ear stretched out, one button eye fixed upon Theodora. *They’ve found the shaw. Besides the game was never the point.*
*Really?* Theodora retorted in the manner of her child. *Exactly what point could there be to this?*
*For Heidi and Heather to remember happier times with Mrs. Grumple. For Grace to realize there’s more to her teacher than she reveals.* Carrot Monster twitched her nose, a gesture unseen by anyone but Theodora. *There’s power in happy memories and the objects associated with them. Remember that, Theodora Bear.*
Indeed. Theodora would remember. It was a lesson that prove invaluable in saving her child’s happiness in the future.
Carrot Monster was far wiser than her floppy apperance let on.