Kind Gestures by S. Webster
Margaret pulls her sweater tighter around her. It is colder than it should be in October. The weather is so hard to predict in the mountains. Sometimes those mountains will block the northern winds and other times they seem to deliberately bow down and let it charge right on through them, down into the valleys and towns below. There has been quite a bit of rain since mid-September here in Oliver. And this cool dampness that October brings is a chilly reminder that the heat of summer is long gone and winter is on the way.
All of them are chilled today as they remember Beth. The last time they saw her. The last time they could have helped her. It is strange that she lived in Oliver her whole life and no one had any idea how much she kept inside, how much pain she must have been in.
By now everyone in town has heard the story of how that poor young woman, mother of two boys and daughter-in-law to Pastor John had stripped down to show a body covered in bruises inflicted by her husband to the few customers that were in Marty’s Diner late one afternoon in August.
When some of the town’s people tried to console Beth’s mother only to be told by her that it might be Beth had it coming, they shunned Paula Siddons. How could anyone be so callous as to think something like that was deserved? At the time not one of Beth’s friends from church could blame her for leaving town. They could understand her shame and were confident that when Beth got herself together she’d come back and get her boys. They all had heard the story of how Beth cleared out her bank accounts just before taking Sam and Danny to the Pastor’s house on the same day she disappeared.
Everyone but Margaret thought she left town to start over. Only Margaret got a letter. She received it two days after Beth told those in the diner that she had mailed one to someone she could trust. Margaret thought that person would be someone in her church, her pastor or maybe a lawyer. But no, it was in a package she had to sign for at the post office two days later. She brought it home to open. Inside was a stack of bills, over three thousand dollars’ worth, two sealed letters and Beth’s final words.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Forgive me. You don’t know me any better than I know you. We have never had an occasion to be introduced properly and I am quite sure you do not go to my church. I have only seen you at the library or in the diner – but not often. And when I do see you, you are alone. I think you value privacy – others as well as your own. For this reason I am asking you to keep the enclosed two letters I have written to my boys. Keep them until Sam turns eighteen and Danny sixteen. Please divide the money between them. I have nothing else to give them but the memories of our time together and my love for them.
Their lives will not be easy after today. When you see them on the street, please smile at them for me. Just smile. That’s all I ask until you deliver my letters to them. I will not see them again in this life, but in the next. God has assured me that I can wait for them there with him.
Thank you Margaret and God bless you.
Margaret had no choice but to see that Beth’s request was honored. What else could she do? Her only worry was that maybe she did not have eight more years in her and then what?
So the day after receiving Beth’s letter, Margaret went to the bank and placed both the letters and the money in a safe deposit box. Then she put Beth’s letter and the key in her own separate safe deposit box. She would try to stay alive to see Beth’s wishes tended to in person but figured this should suffice just in case she couldn’t. Margaret told no one. It was a private matter between her and a young woman she hardly knew and likely never would.
Beth’s body was found in her car just under the surface of Ogden Pond two weeks ago. Some hikers saw a heron that looked like he was walking on water until they went closer and saw the top of a car and called it in. It appeared she had been dead about two months. The authorities ruled it a suicide.
Margaret didn’t go to the church service for Beth, but she did want to be at the cemetery. She edged her way up close so she was across the open grave from Beth’s boys. They were standing between Pastor John and his wife. Their father was nowhere to be seen. She heard that George Saunders simply left town last August rather than face his father. Margaret looked to see if anyone else who had been at Marty’s Diner that day came to the funeral. No, not that she noticed. If Beth’s mother was there, she wouldn’t know. Margaret only came to see the boys and smile at them if they looked up.