Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: FRAGILE (02/23/17)
TITLE: Miranda, Mercy, and Me
By Ann Grover
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Miranda was my sunshine.
“I want to live with you forever, Gran,” she’d say, and my heart would melt. With blond hair like her mama had so many years ago, Miranda was clever and lively, a happy girl. As my only grandchild, she spent a fair amount of time with me. Gran and Miranda time.
“We kind of rhyme, Gran. Gran Miranda. Miranda Gran.” Our names tumbled together from her lips, and my heart swelled.
As always, she bubbled with anticipation when she arrived.
“Can we go for a walk, Gran? Can we pick flowers from the garden? Can we play Sorry?”
Yes, to everything. She is irresistible, is my Miranda.
We refilled bird feeders and picked peas. Investigated newborn kittens in the neighbour’s shed. After homemade macaroni and cheese (and peas) for supper, we curled up in my chair, and I opened the worn cover of The Little White Horse. Whenever Miranda visits, we read several chapters, extra on rainy days.
“Gran, I have a gigantic, splendid idea.”
“What’s that, sweetheart?”
“Let’s have a tea party like Maria! Can we make plum cake and gingerbread? And toast muffins over a fire? Can we?”
I look at her, the clearness of her blue eyes, the pearly lustre of her skin.
“Yes, my love, we can.”
“I’m going to sleep right now!” She hugged me hard, her lithe arms clinging to my neck, then she kissed me. “‘Night, Gran.” She leaped up and ran to her room. I followed and found her burrowed beneath the Cinderella comforter, melodramatic snores mingling with giggles.
The next morning we hurried through our chores, such as they were. Sweeping the walk. Arranging a posy of flowers. Another visit to the kittens. Then while the tea steeped, I took the plates of cinnamon toast and English muffins into the dining room. We’d had much discussion about the unlikelihood of my being able to create saffron cake or eclairs. Marmaduke Scarlet I am not.
Miranda was standing on a chair in front of the china cabinet, cradling a teacup and saucer. My grandmother’s teacup set.
“Gran, I want to use this cup.”
I was enchanted the first time I saw the set. My grandmother had kept it on a little shelf above her sink. Sprinkled with hand-painted pansies, the fine teacup had a unique saucer that incorporated a tiny sugar bowl and creamer, even a diminutive porcelain teaspoon. When my grandmother grew frail, she gave it to me.
Not once have I ever put tea in it. Not once.
“Miranda, put it back.”
“But Gran, it’s perfect.”
The teacup danced in the saucer.
“I’m being careful. Please?”
“No,” and the terrible words shot from my mouth. “Don’t ever touch it again.”
Doing dishes with my grandmother, me drying while she washed. Singing, her dulcet voice smoothing my tuneless warbling. Making pancakes. Walking along the creek, looking for frogs. Her gift of The Little White Horse, reading to me ...
Not unlike Miranda and me.
I took the cup and saucer from her. “Now, choose another and one for me, too.”
Silently, too silently, she pointed to the next sets in the cabinet, rose-spattered Royal Albert, very expensive, but of no value. A single tear was poised on Miranda’s cheek. Her lips trembled.
Our tea was solemn, an uncomfortable pall over the bright flowers and beautiful china. Miranda took two bites of her cinnamon toast.
“I’m not hungry, Gran.”
Nor was I, made full by contrition, curdled and heavy.
She carried her dishes and untouched food to the counter and quietly slipped outside.
How could I not remember her young and guileless heart was like a robin’s egg, more easily crushed than a mere thing? Won’t my memories of my grandmother remain whole, even if Miranda shattered every piece of my precious tea set. How could I have been so ridiculously selfish, so foolish?
Remorse is a dungeon of sorrow. Escape is but by a gossamer thread. It is an endeavour as delicate as mending a torn petal, yet once achieved, creates a strand as strong as steel. I must. For both of us.
I opened the door and stepped into the sunshine. “Miranda?”
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