Little Things Grow Into Big Things

Like many little things in life that grow into something spectacular and promising, the little spark of hope that Linda had experienced from the strange card reader in Bali had, in a whirlwind of events, built into the most desired outcome she could have wished for.


With Jeremiah in her arms, Linda sat on the cracked wooden steps of the little hut. The strange woman’s daughter had disappeared to a friend’s house to borrow some cloth and straw for Linda and James to sleep on tonight.


As dusk settled all around Linda, final stray rays of pink light spread their long fingers over Linda’s face and arms, as if gently caressing her tired body. The light breeze rustled the trees in the background, the trees of the forest that had grown back after the devastating fire. Maroku, the stranger’s daughter, had told Linda in not so many words, for she did not care much to speak Linda’s language, but in gestures and sounds mimicking the pain of the inhabitants and forest creatures, about the effects of the fire and how they had tried to save the children, but were able to find and restore to health only five. One of who was Jeremiah.


The younger woman’s mother had returned to the house just before the sun had begun its descent towards the horizon, eyes no longer burning with the intense fire of earlier, but her face as stern as ever, while her dark eyes seemed to drum holes in Linda and James as she watched their every move with Jeremiah. As Linda lulled the little baby into a deep sleep and he made little bubble noses with his mouth, the mother spoke in low tones to her daughter.  The women had offered the two foreigners supper, a meagre pot of some sort of traditional stew with vegetables and meat. As Linda and James ate hungrily and Jeremiah was passed, sleeping, from arms to arms until everyone had eaten, the strange older woman had inquired into Linda’s life, her broken English sometimes merging into clear, flowing speech, and then receding back into a cluster of broken sentences which Linda tried to decipher. Linda found herself struggling to understand whether this woman was tricking her or if it was simply that memory often failed her, but she knew one thing – that this stranger, this elderly woman of seemingly otherworldly sight, had led her to Jeremiah, and for that Linda would have everlasting gratitude.


As the conversation had grown deeper, Linda had braved herself and asked about the adoption papers, about the possibility of once again knowing she could have Jeremiah, could care for him and redeem her action of turning away from the possibility that he was still alive all those months ago. It wasn’t the time or the place to ask such questions, but Linda knew that if she didn’t, it would never come.


The two hosts had immediately begun to discuss something in their native tongue, none of which Linda could understand. Perhaps the rushed words or the rising tone indicated disapproval, disbelief even, at the white woman’s arrogance?


She had found herself crawling away from the centre of the circle they had made around the dinner pot, shrinking into the shadows where James could comfort her against his warm, broad body. She cared not that she had met him only some hours ago on the plane, she cared not for the cab driver they had left waiting at the entrance to the property of the orphanage – James had paid him for the fare there, and he had probably long since left.


Linda felt like she was slipping into a magical world, where the orphanage hadn’t existed, and it was just her and Jeremiah in this little warm hut, the light dimming and the conversation in the room dying out into a quiet, pleasant chirping of the cicadas outside. She knew she could trust James with her life. With his comforting hold on her on the floor of the little wooden hut, there was not a place she would rather have been in at that very moment, even with the pressure of the unknown about to unravel and consume her, even with the uncertainty of her and Jeremiah’s future… She knew James would be there.


In the middle of the heated debate, the young woman had suddenly grown quiet, waking Linda from her reverie. She had shuffled back into the bedroom, and Linda had worried she had overstepped the line. But as she looked on, the young woman reappeared with a wide box, from which she extracted what looked like an envelope, cinched and curled a bit at the edges. She handed it to James as Linda stared at it dumbly, silently, who stood up and with a careful look at Linda, a look she felt she had never shared with any other man in her life in a situation of such tension and silence to receive such a strong feeling of peace and support, he produced the very papers Linda had signed and mailed to the orphanage all those months back.


Scrambling to her feet and reading the papers agape, Linda had barely believed her eyes. But before she had been able to say anything, the girl had spoken.


“Mother was testing you… to see if you, foreign woman, really wanted Jeremiah,” her speech flowed clearly for a moment as she fixed beautiful amber eyes on the taller woman before her.


After an audible pause, in which the strange woman passed the sleeping toddler into Linda’s arms, Linda blinked, her eyes welling with tears of emotion. “Does she think I’m worthy then?” was all she could whisper and she stood, Jeremiah curled once more in her hands, dreaming away sweetly as she rocked him gently.


Behind her, James had stepped closer and placed a hand on Linda’s shoulder, but she’d barely felt it. Her eyes were trained on the younger woman’s, her jaw tight with anticipation, her upper teeth biting her lower lip as she willed her destiny to be sealed for the positive. She wanted to look at the older woman, too, but she felt she would lose her composure if she let her mind be distracted by both women at once. The women that had given her her son, her happiness, her life back.


The reply came in a hushed voice, as if the young woman couldn’t quite believe her own words. As if she couldn’t believe she was about to give away the baby she had nourished and looked after for so many months, simply because in some weird and strange way to her he was bound to the complete stranger, the total and utter foreigner, standing before her eyes.


“Mother wills,” she murmured, the words coming out in little whispers, “that you take this child. Jeremiah you call him.” She pronounced his name awkwardly, moving her lips in a fashion unknown to her. “That you take him back home. Your home. In foreign land. Take him.” She bowed her head slightly as if to acknowledge defeat, as if Linda was about to take away the one things closest to her heart, selfishly taking him away to the land of the unknown, and leaving his homeland behind.


But as Linda wanted to speak out, the girl raised her hand towards the taller woman, willing her to be silent a moment longer. She caressed Jeremiah’s cheek as he continued to sleep soundly in his new mother’s arms, and a soft pink tinge of adoration coloured her cheeks.


“He doesn’t have a home here,” the girl continued sadly, as if she knew what Linda had been thinking. “Not really. He is not our own as my own child would have been.” She looked away wistfully and Linda guessed there was a story to tell there, but she did not press. As James pressed her shoulder reassuringly, she finally felt his presence behind her and could hear the intensity of his breathing. She counted the seconds and then spoke.


“Thank you.” Her voice was measured but her heart continued to race. “Thank you for everything you have done. I promise I will take care of him. Jeremiah will be – is! – loved...” As Linda carried away thanking the girl, the younger woman waved her away gently, a faint smile playing on her lips. She couldn’t understand every single word of gratitude that escaped Linda’s mouth, but Linda could feel that somehow, somewhere, the young woman understood, and felt her gratitude, her love, and her yearning to give Jeremiah the best life he could get.


As she sat now on the cracked wooden stairs, she could hear the quiet steps of James as he walked around the hut, setting up their straw beds for the night, speaking in soft, kind tones with the elderly woman. All the necessary arrangements would be made within the next few days, but tonight, Linda and James were guests of the hut in which Jeremiah had lived and been cared for for the last few months.


As the final ray of sun vanished over the horizon, taking with it the last light of the day and plunging the village into a grey and still night, Linda blew a small kiss at Jeremiah’s face. He woke up momentarily, giggling as he received the air kiss, his mouth bubbling with excitement before he settled down again into a rhythmic sleep.


As many little things are solved within the light hours of the day, so Linda had found her long lost son, her Jeremiah. She had met James. She had learnt the story of the fire. And she had understood the need for hope. It was hope that had gotten her this far, and it was hope that would bring Jeremiah and James home with her. And it was hope that had raised a little thing into a big, enormous, gigantic event, which had rocked her world from its very foundations to stand her strong and smiling against the emotions and feelings of defeat she had let herself succumb to many months ago.


In the end, hope would bring Jeremiah home. And with him, it would give Linda a new, happier life, one little-big thing at a time.

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This story is beautifully crafted Anna. It shows an understanding of a mother's tenderness and the mix of emotions when a mother finds a lost child. Your writing has matured enormously over the last year. You write with such insight and clarity that a reader is compelled to read what you have written down to the last paragraph. Look at trying to vary sentence length. That's the only suggestion I would make. Also why not now play with some dialogue and see how you can build characters using dialogue...but not too much. Maybe 10 % of your story at the most. But you write beautiful narrative so why not experiment a bit?