Kind Gestures by S. Webster

Chapter 11

Lydia –1:30 pm

She looks for the two boys. They are here somewhere. Every day all summer they have been here. At first Lydia would sketch their animated forms and movements. But over the last couple of weeks the boys seem physically quieter. Like toys winding down and today she sees them completely stopped. They are sitting with their arms around each other on a small bench. The bench is by a tree, a lush green with a lower branch that stretches over the boys as they embrace each other. Even the tree branch appears to be holding them. There is something quite beautiful about this picture of the boys and the tree.

Lydia won’t draw this. She couldn’t possibly capture with line alone what she is seeing. It is more than the gesture of an embrace that keeps her transfixed, a sadness.  And she can actually feel it from where she stands. What has brought these boys to this? What is it that causes even the tree to reach out?

She walks up to them quietly and says, “Hello, my name is Lydia. Can I help?”

The older boy looks up and says, “No, we’re fine.”

“Are you hurt?” Lydia asks.

“No,” they say together.

Lydia tries another approach. She puts down her bag, leans casually against the tree and says, “I’ve seen you two in the park all summer. Do you live nearby?”

“Down there by the church.” The little one says pointing with his small nail-chewed finger.

“The preacher is our grandpa,” he adds.

The older one asks, “Do you go to our church?”

“No, I don’t,” Lydia answers.

“You should, you know”, he says without looking at Lydia.

“Really?” Lydia says.

“Are you married?” the younger boy asks her.

“No, not now,” Lydia tells him.

“Did he die?” he asks.

“No, but our marriage did,” she says.

“How?” the older boy wants to know.

“Our marriage did not have room for us to live the lives each of us grew to want. So it ended. It happens,” she says trying to explain.

“Did it make you sad?” asks the younger boy.

“Only for a little while. But we are still friends, good friends,” she assures them.

“You should marry him again the older boy tells her.  “Or someone else.”

“Why?” Lydia asks.

“Women need to be looked after. They need someone to help them,” the older boy tells her.

Lydia thinks for a moment and asks, “Do they now?”

“Yes, he says, “They need someone to tell them not to worry.  That everything will be alright.”

Lydia did not think that this was true but knew it was not her place to question these young believers.

She smiled at them and said, “I need to be going. Are you sure you’re okay? Would you like me to call someone?”

“No, we’re fine,” the older one tells her again as his younger brother smiles up at her.

But the image stays with her – the two of them on that bench. As soon as she is back in the studio she will sketch this sadness. Sketch two boys on a bench by a tree, under an overhanging branch, arms around each other, one boy’s feet not quite reaching the ground.

And Lydia knows how she would paint them into the blank rectangle above the man’s arms, over his heart. They will be almost in silhouette, sheltered and shadowed by a large tree and the beliefs of their father. She quickens her pace, anxious to get back to him. She knows now what he was feeling.