Outstanding Story - The Girl and the Old Lady
"The Girl and the Old Lady” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2016 written by Aiman Danisha binti Haji Johari, Brunei.
The Girl and the Old Lady
Amanda was walking through the busy streets of the bright city, her headphones on, the latest edition of the Daily News tucked under her arm. She was humming loudly, her head bobbing up and down, causing her hair to fall on her face.
She reached a traffic light, and reluctantly stopped behind a few older women. The light turned green and a crowd of people began pushing through. Amanda was ready to speed off, but she saw an old woman at the back of the crowd.
‘Always help others’, Amanda recalled the advice that teachers and parents often utter, as she took off her earphones. She approached the old woman.
“Um... Ma’am, let me help you,” she said, offering a hand.
The old lady smiled, “Thank you.”
Amanda returned the smile and guided the old lady across the street. As soon as they arrived on the other side, the old lady let go of Amanda’s hand and thanked her again before blending in with the crowd.
Amanda soon reached her house after a couple of minutes. Her father sat on the couch, reading a thick book, sipping tea loudly.
“I helped someone just now,” Amanda bragged to her father.
“That’s nice. Ah...Amanda, I’ve got great news. I applied for a job in Japan and guess what, they approved! We’re moving this Sunday! Aren’t you excited?” her father asked hopefully.
Amanda faked a smile. “Superb.”
Her father’s face changed. “Amanda, I know it’s hard for you, moving around a lot, but this is a good opportunity for us! Trust me. It’ll be great.”
Amanda felt her emotions fill her up like a genie in a bottle. “Great? Dad, I’ve been moving for 15 years, which is basically my whole life, and it’s not easy, I can’t even …”
“I know, Amanda. I understand,” her father interrupted.
“No, dad. You don’t. It’s not easy! I don’t have friends, I’m weird and recently kids at my school started a rumour that I was banished from Nigeria!”
“But we were there two years ago.”
“The point is, I don’t like it.”
“Amanda, you’re overreacting on this. You should just ….”
“No, I’m not,” Amanda yelled her eyes red. “You don’t understand! You never did!” she said as she ran upstairs, wishing she could leave her father to be on his own.
It was the next day, and once again Amanda was walking through the same street, and she saw the same old lady from the previous day. She greeted the old lady and introduced herself. It was getting late and she waved goodbye.
On the next day, Amanda was searching for the old lady.
“Ma’am, hi, it’s me again,” Amanda greeted the old lady after she found her. “Maybe I’m being too friendly,” she thought. The old lady turned. “Oh it’s you, hello.”
“With all due respect, ma’am ….”
“Call me May.”
“With all due respect, May, what are you doing here again?”
May asked Amanda to sit beside her on the bench, underneath the big oak tree.
“I was always one of those types of mothers that would watch everything my kids did, for their own safety, or as they would say, to spy on them,” she let out a sad smile. “I had four children, Maria, Fiona, Lena and Sean. I did everything for them.
One day, I was unwell, and Maria accompanied me to the hospital, where the doctor said that I had lung cancer. Maria kept her poker face on. She informed her siblings, but none of them ever cared to visit me. Maria was the only one who cared for me until that day, when God took her away from me,” a tear fell on her cheek.
May shook her head. “I asked Lena and Fiona to help take care of me, but they both did not want to do it. They met up with Sean and told him to take care of me. Sean said to me, I remember it clearly, “Mom, I’m taking you to the clinic.” I trusted him, as I had no one else to trust. “Wait here,” he told me as I stood outside the grocery store.
“I waited for six hours. My son, the one I trusted, never came back,” May let her tears fall slowly, her voice breaking. “Now, I still wonder, what did I do wrong? Now I live in a small apartment around here, alone.”
“I don’t understand, why, why, why they treated me like that,” she sobbed. Amanda’s face was wet with tears.
“I’m so sorry,” Amanda cried.
May smiled. “I care for them, and I understand what they have been through, even if they don’t believe me. I had to do jobs at different places. Every time we moved, they would get angry at me, blame me for every problem, no matter how small it was.”
Amanda was drowned by a wave of guilt. She turned slowly to face May, who was wiping her eyes.
“Go, and apologise. It’s never too late,” May said.
Amanda gasped, “How did you know?”
“I can see it on your face, the guilt. It’s not too late, Amanda.”
Amanda said goodbye to May. “Thank you. For everything,” she said softly.
She ran home with all her might and went in, her hands trembling.
“Dad,” she called out.
“Amanda,” her father came rushing, “I’m sorry….”
“No, dad. I’m sorry. I was thinking about only myself and not about you. I’m sorry. I said a few things about you. I’m sorry.”
Her father smiled. “I’m sorry, too. I shouldn’t have thought about just myself. It turns out that my daughter understands me, too.”
Amanda hugged him tightly, her tears flowing. But they were not sad tears. They were happy tears, as at that moment, Amanda felt happier, truly happier, than she had ever been.