Melissa Thomas cried for the first time in twenty-five years. She could understand her tears but not the reason for them. It wasn’t that she didn’t know why she had been crying, it was because she didn’t understand why she did what she did.
Poor Melissa, or sad Melissa some called her, nasty Melissa, others. The village outcast, the one person everyone crossed the road to avoid. Such actions used to be subtle but gradually pretence vanished until it became the accepted thing to ignore her. Why this situation arose in the first place she could not remember, may never have known, except that it was something to do with her parents and it started in her early childhood but whatever the reason she knew that from the age of ten until now, the grand old age of thirty-five, she had shed no tears for her fellow villagers. She had hardened herself to her isolation, convinced herself she didn’t care, had never cared but her latest actions belied her convictions and she realised she had cared after all, but why?
She lay stretched on the sofa that served as a bed during daylight hours, listening to the nurse as she bustled around in the small kitchen. The chink of china and the rattle of spoons were sounds that, until now, only she had made. She had never heard those sounds made by someone else, at least not in the confines of her own small cottage. She lay back, closed her eyes and relived those moments when she had stepped into the road and been hit by the local bus. She had broken both legs and fractured a collarbone and it was nothing more than a chance of fate that the doctor treating her was also the doctor treating Tommy Tripp.
She had seen little Tommy as he lay in his hospital bed waiting for a miracle or death, whichever came the sooner and when the doctor asked her she had agreed to help without any hesitation. Maybe it was because little Tommy looked as isolated as she felt, after all he was a sort of outcast too. Maybe it was because in him she saw the child that she had always wanted but never had. Maybe it was because the villagers had, over the years, forced her to lock up her real feelings, her natural feelings, and Tommy had managed, just by lying in bed to unlock them again.
A knock on the door disturbed her thoughts, the nurse called out that she would answer it. Melissa heard the murmur of voices and a bump. The door creaked open and she turned to see Tommy Tripp sitting in a wheelchair smiling. His Mother stood behind him looking very nervous, not knowing what to say. Tommy had no such nervousness. He held out his hand in which was clasped a small well cuddled ‘Winnie the Pooh.’
“I brought you a present,” he said, “he’s a nice Winnie and he will be your friend while you get better just like he did to me.” Melissa took the bear and smiled and she could feel the tears welling up inside her again as she murmured,
“Thank you Tommy, he’s lovely.”
The little boy felt down the side of his wheelchair and produced a tin.
“This is for your dog Ginger. The doctor said you gave some to me to make me better,” he frowned a bit and looked disappointed, “I couldn’t find any for you Melissa, only Ginger.” She took the tin and read the label PEDIGREE CHUM WITH MARROWBONE. “I love you Melissa,” he said, leaning forward to kiss her. Now she was crying quite openly, unable to hide her feelings and she knew now why she was crying. She was happy, truly happy for the first time in her life. The gift she had always wanted, love, had been given to her by a six-year-old boy in exchange for some of her bone marrow and she would never be the same again.