Marilla and Marilyn were about halfway back to the island when Marilla spoke for the first time since they left the hospital, “Mom, I am excited about maybe being able to walk a little on my own, and maybe even being able to help you with some of  the simpler things around the house, but I am also scared, It will mean that I am going to have to learn how to move on my own, like how to keep my balance when I am walking. I watch you and dad and Kevin, you make it look so easy. But I also see how sometimes you can stumble and fall on things.”

Marilla paused for a moment, then spoke again, her voice holding just a small trace of a tremor, “I am scared that if I fell I might hurt myself and the doctor’s wouldn’t be able to fix it.”

She fell silent again, slipping once more into thought.

Marilyn glanced back at her once again silent and slightly pensive daughter, her own thoughts on her words. As she turned back to face the front of the boat with a slight frown furrowing her brow, her thoughts, and heart, were heavy, “She is right, there is no doubt of that, even those who walk perfectly can stumble and fall, and I can understand her concern…and yes, fear…about what could happen if she did fall and injured herself beyond repairing the damage, but I need to find some way of reassuring her that her father, myself, and her  brother are going to be there for her, to help her through this.”

But the more she thought about it, the deeper her frown grew, for the lighthouse they lived in was very old, and the floor was made of a type of slate that had been cemented together in various shapes to form the floor itself. The cement had become so fragile in some places over the passage of time that it had begun to crumble in various parts of the join lines, often causing some of the looser tiles to shift if stepped on just right.

Whereas one day you could walk on an area with no problem, several days later you might step just right and there would be a grating sound and you would look down to see hairline cracks in the cement around the tile on which you had just stepped.

Jonathan made a valiant attempt to keep up with the more visibly weakened areas, but some of them did not show up till after they had come loose or shifted.

Marilyn was concerned that Marilla might step on one of those unstable tiles, causing it to shift or crack and she would lose her balance.

Even a slight fall could shatter the bones in Marilla’s arms if she landed on them, or tried to catch herself with them, beyond repair.

Finally Marilyn turned her head to glance back at her daughter with what she hoped was a reassuring smile, “Angel-girl, you know that neither your father, your brother nor I would ever let any harm come to you if we could possibly help it. And we would never leave you in a situation in which you might come to harm. Now come on, where’s that smile that we all love so much!’

Marilla gave her a weak smile, but it was all too plain that something else was bothering her. Turning back to the front of the boat, Marilyn cautioned herself not to press…her daughter would tell her in her own time what it was that was bothering her…

But she was in no way prepared for what that thing turned out to be as her daughter once more spoke up, with what could almost have been a trace of tears in her suddenly somber voice, “Mom, do you guys ever get tired of waiting on me all the time and wish that I weren’t around? Do you ever get angry with me because all I can do is sit, not able to help, while you all work so hard?”

She fell silent once more for a few heartbeats, and then whisper soft, and now with a definite trace of tears in her voice, she continued, “Do you all ever hate me because I am not like you?”

Marilyn stiffened slightly as her hands gripped the steering wheel hard, feeling as if a piece of her heart had just been ripped out as she was forced to swallow hard and  fight to hold back the tears that threatened at Marilla’s words, “Oh no, surely she cannot think such a thing! Never, ever have we given her cause to feel that way!”

Marilyn had sensed for some time that something had been bothering Marilla, but it had never been her policy, nor Jonathan’s, to force either of their children’s confidences. They had found that whenever their kids had something bothering them, if left alone, sooner or later they would come to them and discuss the matter, whatever it might be.

Marilyn had observed how Marilla had taken into falling into long periods of silence of late, often sitting watching them move around her with a sad, lost look, but never once had she suspected that such thoughts might be behind her daughter’s unusual behavior…never had she even remotely pictured that her much loved daughter could have such doubts about her worth to them all.

Taking a deep breath, and trying to put a soothing smile on her face, she turned in the seat to find Marilla sitting, her body tense, her eyes tear misted, her hands gripped hard in her lap and her eyes focused firmly on herself, all too plainly awaiting her response.

Marilyn took a deep breath as she looked her daughter straight in the eyes,  then spoke, trying to keep her tone light and reassuring, “Sweetheart, listen to me, we all love you very, very much and would never, ever think or feel that way about you! We have never, any of us, thought for one single moment that you were a burden or resented the help that we give you! What we do, we do out of the love that we have for you, so please, do not ever, ever think that, alright?”

After looking at her Marilyn for a few long tense moments in a very serious way, Marilla finally said “Okay, mom.”

Marilyn looked past her daughter towards the horizon beind them and saw someting that filled her heart with sudden concern and fear…for whereas the skies had been blue and clear when they left the mainland, the entire skyline behind them now was dark…and growing darker even as she watched.

Marilyn turned back towards the front of the boat, her heart beginning to beat more quickly…that darkening sky, combined with the fact that it was growing very late in the day, and that they were only about half way home, meant that there was a good chance that that approaching storm would be upon them before they reached the jetty below the lighthouse and safety.

Trying not to let her concern show in her face or voice, she once more turned to look at her daughter, “Marilla, sweetheart, why don’t you make sure your life vest is secure, we sort of put them on in a hurry when we left the mainland because it was so late. You know how your dad is about making sure we obey the rules of boating safely!”

Here Marilyn gave what she hoped was a lightly teasing smile. It evidently worked, for Marilla gave her a somewhat wry grin back, and her voice held a trace of that same wryness, “Oh man, do I ever! he even comes down to the jetty when we are getting ready to go to the mainland and personally fastens and checks not only my seat belt and vest, but he even gives yours the once over too, and you are a grownup!”

Marilyn gave an involuntary chuckle at this statement, for it was, in fact, the truth, her husband was very protective of what he called ‘his ladies’.

And heaven help them if they did not have those life vests on BEFORE they set foot in that boat! He always double checked to make sure that they had enough gas to make it to the mainland and back as well.

The day before any trip his family made to the mainland he would spend several hours going over the entire boat, checking for cracks or possible places that might need repairing to insure safety, and checking oil and fuel levels, spark plugs and anything else that he thought might have even the remotest chance of malfunctioning.

Sometimes Marilyn teased him about this, but his stock answer was that it was far better to close the door while the horses were still in the barn than to kick that selfsame door and curse after the horses were gone. He always told her that a few moments of caution could prevent a lifetime of cursing.

And she had to admit, there had been a few times that they had all been glad of his precautions.





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