TITLE: THE WISH GARDEN
GENRE: MG MAGICAL REALISM
Penny always knew she’d be young when her mama died, but that didn’t take the pain away. Even when your mama’s been sick for your whole life, it still hurts to be ten years old and throwing a shovel full of dirt on top of the box that holds your best friend.
Because when you are ten years old, and have spent your whole life with a sick mom, she is your best friend. In Penny’s case, pretty much her only friend.
Penny didn’t stay to watch them fill the hole. Her papa took her home, but she couldn’t stay. Mercifully, Papa didn’t make her. After all, she never went far.
Today, she sat on a boulder at the edge of the forest behind her house, letting the damp moss soak through to her skin as she watched the people of her town of Hopeton mill around her house, eat potatoes and Jell-O, hug her father, pick up photographs and look pityingly out the back window at her.
Penny had gotten used to those pitying looks in her short ten years. Her mama had gotten ill soon after she was born, spending time in and out of hospitals, stumping doctors from all over the country with her mysterious illness. Over the last year, that illness had progressed to the point that her mama couldn’t even make it to the hospitals. Then, she couldn’t even take another breath.
Penny had found it hard to breathe herself over the last week. The house wasn’t the same without her mama. It wasn’t in the absence of things; the beeping machines or bustling nurses. It was in the things that lingered. The smell of lilacs from her mama’s lotion. The piles of cut paper that her and her mama had used to build cities with the extra hospital tape the nurses would sneak for them. Her mama’s favorite blanket, folded neatly on her father’s favorite chair, next to the five pairs of reading glasses her mama couldn’t seem to place and so her father kept buying more for her.
Penny clung to a pair of those reading glasses now, as she huddled under the canopy of trees on the outskirts of their yard, letting the tears stream down and puddle in the folds of her dress. She didn’t even bother with a tissue, just sniffed and wiped her face with the sleeve of the black, velvet dress a neighbor had brought over with a pan of cinnamon rolls.
The breeze that drifted through the pink blossomed trees carried a sad whistle in its wake and the setting sun seemed dimmer than it usually was. Penny pulled her knees into her chest and tucked her scuffed, red Mary Jane’s under her skirt. She couldn’t understand how she could hurt so bad and feel so numb at the same time.
As the sun fell behind the trees and the sky turned from blue, to orange, to gray, Penny laid her head on her arms, and let her eyelids flutter and close.