Esther sat on the sunlit back porch of a small thatched cottage, a solitary brick beauty that stood alone on a quiet lane outside a rural village in the country. She fumbled the pages of one of her favourite playbooks, reciting the words out loud, pushing her memory for all the times she had embraced these respectful roles on the stage. Her auburn hair was twisted above her head and pinned with a glistening emerald pin that had been passed down in her family for centuries, her fingers shook involuntarily and her eyes would seep with tears.
At the age of eighty-five she was a beautiful wise old lady, and in fact this had been her ambition her entire life. Esther never wanted to be young nor free, she never wanted to be a mother, nor a wife and she most certainly didn’t want to be successful. She spent her years cycling to a bookshop in the next major town, cursing books as they would fall off rickety shelves and land in her lap, taunting her she would never be able to read a mere smidgen of the literature the world had to offer. In the evenings she would jump from character to character on the amateur dramatic stage, at one point she was almost lured to the Royal Shakespeare Company but her wings stayed close. She was a home bird and couldn’t bear to betray the village that had protected her all these years.
Her old sister had passed a few years prior but had left behind a wealth of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren that would stop by and ensure Esther was safe. Each time they would be surprised to find her wobbling round the garden feeding birds and watering her treasured borders. She had reached retirement many years before but still managed to make the bus to the bookshop a few days a week. Only ten years previous did she realise she had reached her perfect wise old age and decided that it was her passion to spend the rest of her years nurturing her home.
That particular morning was frightfully cold, there had been no real winter snap until today despite most of January having fallen behind. However, as the day passed the sun rose higher than before and it cast its glorious warmth down over the suntrap that she had decided to rest in for the afternoon. Her little black cat Elgar crept by, a stray who had befriended her always stopped by for afternoon scraps and took great pleasure in helping himself to whatever had been laid on the table. “Good Afternoon Elgar, there’s pastry crumbs on the table and some milk beside the water dish.”
Esther had only ever been maternal to animals. They felt like her flesh and blood, and even now she felt a duty to protect. Each morning in Winter she would place fresh bowls of seed and shallow water out for the variant of birds that would flock to her precious garden. Scraps would be tossed for the foxes, the badgers and even the rats that multiplied in the garden shed. Each dandelion that grew was protected to feed the early bees awakening from their long hibernation and it wouldn’t go amiss to find her with a magnifying glass inspecting the pond for new life.
This gorgeous Winters morning had given her fresh hope, she had lived years of luxury in her own comfort and if it were to be the last, it would have been well lived. She could only hope that her spirit would live on with the wildlife she had so dutifully cared for in all her many years. Next week would mark the first of February, Imbolc would be welcomed and soon daffodils and tulips would burst through the borders. She had brushed out her kitchen each morning and leant on the broom handle to watch fine dust and ash drift into the air as yellow candles in the windowsills welcomed Brigit, on the eve of February she would place a cross on her front door allowing for the arrival of Spring.
It was to no great surprise then that a week later, when the birds chirped and bathed in fresh water, and the first sign of bees began to charm the weeds that when Esther stepped out on the celebration of life she would find her gift from Brigit by the front door. A small gathering of pure white snowdrops delicately balanced beside the pathway to the front gate. This small token of gratitude filled her weary tired heart with love and that very night she drifted a deep peaceful sleep. There she was again, a mere child sat among the muddy woodland reading aloud to the creatures of the forest, her long auburn hair braided delicately down her back. Though she never saw a new Spring again, she lived in Spirit with all the creatures she had adopted and each morning would find snowdrops waiting with thanks.