It had been a nice sunny day and it was still bright and yellow outside. I decided to take the long way back home this evening and as I was about to walk past the park I thought it would be nice to go sit by the lake for a while. I’d been getting those annoying headaches again all day and some fresh air would do me good. It had been a normal day at work nothing remarkable had happened. There was a nice breeze and the lush grass looked very inviting in the peaceful amber glow. I made my way towards a tree and settled down under it, leaning comfortably against the trunk.
I shut my eyes and started to relax, soaking in the warmth, listening to the sounds of the birds chirping, children playing, happy chatter all around me. I could feel the soft golden rays caressing my cheeks and had started to stretch out my arms and legs gradually lying flat on the ground when my fingers brushed against something. I looked over to see what it was and found a book tucked away under a bush. It was a smallish book, black, hardbound and didn’t have a name on the cover. It looked a bit old but was still in pretty good condition. It always pleased me to see a book much read but kept well and taken care of, the pages yellowing but still crisp dignified like an old man who had lived long and seen better days, now ageing but still resolute. I approved of the owner, although a little reproachful that they had left the book lying around like that. Flipping through the pages, I found it was a collection of short stories. As I was going through the titles I heard a voice say, “Oh there it is!”
I looked up to see a girl, hand out-stretched looking very relieved.
“Oh, I’m sorry, that’s mine” she said. “I knew I must’ve left it at the park.”
“Yes, I found it lying here and was just having a look” I replied, handing her the book. “Is it any good?”
“Yes! It’s one of my favorite” she said as she put it away in her bag.
“Oh. I didn’t recognize any of the names.”
“It’s not that well-known. I discovered it at a book fair some years ago. Started reading it in the shop and couldn’t put it down. Anyway, I’ve got to go now. Have a nice day.”
She trotted away, her blonde ponytail swishing away in her wake.
After another dull day at work I decided to sit at the park again the next day. I strolled by the lake for a bit gazing at the golden specks of sun bouncing off the ripples and then headed towards the cozy spot I had discovered the day before. Walking towards the tree I saw that girl again, reading a book. It was the same book that she had left behind the last day.
She looked up and smiled on recognizing me.
“Hello. Am I in your spot?”
“Oh no, It’s not really my spot. I don’t come here very often. Do you?”
“Yes, I like to come here after work and read for a little bit.”
“That’s nice. Maybe I should start doing that as well. Okay if I sit here?”
I sat down beside her and made myself comfortable.
“I’m Roger by the way.”
“It’s nice to meet you Roger. I’m Daffodil” she said, shaking my hand.
“What a beautiful name.”
“Yes my mother’s favorite poet was Wordsworth –“
“Ah, I see!..”When all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden Daffodils”…”
We then engrossed ourselves in a lively chat about the Romantic era.
True to my word, I turned up at the park with a book next day, and for several days afterwards. Daffodil and I became fast friends. We would meet at the park after work every day, book in hand and talk about literature, films, music, theatre. With time I could feel the stresses of my daily life ebbing away. I felt lighter nowadays, the chronic heaviness that had been part of my being since before I can even remember seemed to slowly subside. We would often tell each other stories we had read or even just sit quietly and read. She worked as an editor for a local publishing company and she sometimes brought manuscripts that she’d been working on and we would discuss them at length.
“I work at a laboratory.” I said, when she asked what I did.
“Oh are you a scientist?” she asked her eyes widening.
“Haha, I wish. No I’m just the assistant. I run the experiments that they tell me to.”
“Is the work interesting?”
“Not at all. Not my bit at least. I run the procedures and mostly just sit and wait for the results which I then report to those who do the actual analysis.”
“Well, what got you into this line of work?”
“I studied science at university and wasn’t able to find work for a long time after. Desperate for employment I took this temporary job and am still stuck here three years later.”
I absent-mindedly grabbed the ball that had rolled over to me as I pondered quietly. “Pass the ball please” I threw the ball back at the boy and gave him a little wave. He smiled back. I had often seen him playing with his dog when I sat here with Daffodil. I picked up a leaf and started playing with it still lost in thought. It was a beautiful ochre shade. I loved the Fall season. And I loved spending time at the park, with its warm colors, familiar faces, and Daffodil. I turned to look at her.
“The one thing I like about my job though, is that I have plenty of free time all day, to sit and daydream and make up stories. So many stories. Buzzing around in my head. Plotlines, characters, settings, themes. I love to think up stories”
“Is that what you really want to do? Write stories.”
I smiled and gave her a little shrug.
“You should tell me some of your stories then.”
“I don’t have any of them written down really. I just make them up in my head. It all really started when…” I stopped talking as an inexplicable wave of sadness suddenly hit me and I was completely consumed by it. I forgot what I was saying, I could only feel the throbbing in my head. That heavy burden was back and now it felt heavier.
“I uh…I’m sorry I seem to have lost track of what I was saying.”
She seemed to understand that something was bothering me and did not press the matter any further.
That night I lay in bed looking out the window at the stars. Maybe Daffodil was right. Maybe I should actually write down one of my stories. I always felt like there was so much trapped inside that probably needed to be released. This weight that I’ve had for years and haven’t been able to free myself of. I recalled Daffodil’s earlier question and tried to think of the first story I had ever thought of. It must’ve been so long ago. As I shut my eyes trying to remember, something else came rushing back. That day. The car. Her face. A flash of yellow. I opened my eyes fast. I did not want to remember, things that I had buried away so deep. I got up and started to write and it felt pleasantly liberating.
Daffodil did not come to the park the next day and her visits started to become less frequent in the following weeks. I always went though. I’d play with the little boy and his dog sometimes, when Daffodil didn’t turn up. I wanted to tell her about the story that I had started to write but nowadays she seemed distant even when she came. Whenever I asked her if everything was all right she would just nod and seem further withdrawn, so I stopped asking. I felt sad but thought I’d surprise her with my story once it was done and that would definitely cheer her up.
As the days went by I saw even less of Daffodil, but I kept myself busy with my writing. I now had a purpose in my life and I felt an odd sense of peace and salvation as I wrote more and more. It was like a dam had broken inside of me and everything was pouring out onto paper, gushing out through my pen. So many thoughts, ideas, beliefs, feelings I didn’t even know I had. So many stories. Stories of friendship, love, loss, pain, joy, hope, thrill. In a strange way, the more I wrote, the stronger I felt. The weight was lifting, even my headaches were going away. I felt alive and happy and the lesser I needed Daffodil to make me feel better. My stories were turning into a book and might I say quite a good one too. In fact, thoughts of taking it to a publisher had also crept into my mind. I thought I might ask Daffodil to take it to her publishing company if she thought it was any good. The book was nearly done and I was excited to share it with her and to thank her for inspiring me. But even with all of this, there was something still that seemed to keep that weight from completely lifting. Finishing the book would probably grant me the closure I was seeking.
I went to the park the next day hoping to find Daffodil and there she was. I walked towards her smiling, but today day she looked different. Pale and sickly and I could see that she had been crying.
“Are you all right?” I asked worried.
She nodded sadly.
“What’s the matter?”
“Roger. Tell me about the first story you made up.”
There it was again. That wave of helpless despair crashing upon me. But this time it felt as though I’d been drowning at sea and could now see the shore, all I needed to do was to let go of the piece of wood I had been clutching on to for dear life and just swim that last stretch to safety, but I was too afraid to let go. What if I didn’t make it.
I don’t know how long I sat there in silence before I started to speak. I started somewhat incoherently, as if I wasn’t sure of what I was saying but it became clearer the more I spoke. A distant memory that I was suddenly reliving after several years, but a story that needed to be told.
“I was about 6 or 7 years old. I had been playing hide and seek with my sister Ray who was about 10 at the time. She was wearing a dress with big yellow flowers on it. She was quite like a flower herself, dainty and gentle. We had been playing for hours. It was her turn to hide and I started looking for her after I had finished counting. I looked everywhere. All around the house, the garden, and then I went out on the street in front of our house. As I stood there wondering where to look next a car whizzed past me. I don’t know now if I had imagined it then, but I thought I saw a flash of yellow through the car’s window. Yellow like the dress Ray had been wearing. I ran after the car reaching for her, the car was long gone but I kept on running. My parents found me unconscious by the street later that night. They searched for her everywhere, but she was never found. That night I made up my first story. Ray and I were pirates, we were sailing out at sea on a great big ship, with a yellow sail, on a quest for hidden treasure. I made up a new story about her every day, adventures that she and I would go on. I hoped that these stories would fill the void till the day they found her, she would be back, and I wouldn’t have to make them up anymore. But she never came back. Over time I taught myself not to think about her, not to miss her, to stop myself wondering what had happened to her, how terrible it must have been, if I would ever see her again. But I’d gotten into the habit of thinking up stories. Only now, they weren’t about Ray. They were about everything else and everyone else but Ray. Wherever I went, whoever I met, whatever I did. I’d be brewing up a new story at the back of my mind.”
It had been so long since I had thought about Ray. Her sweet face flashed in my mind, but it wasn’t clear. I tried to stop the picture fading away, but it was gone. Just like her. I hadn’t realized that I had been crying. I suddenly felt calm. Like I had let go of that plank. After all these years I had finally said it out loud. I had finally accepted that she was gone and that she wouldn’t be back. As agonizing as it was, it was also oddly relieving. I had let everything out these last few months pouring everything into my book and today I had found that last bit of closure I’d been looking for.
I looked up at Daffodil. She looked pristine, the sun shining bright behind her imparting her an ethereal glow. She was quiet. We sat there in silence for some time.
“Daffodil. Promise me you’ll come tomorrow. I have to show you something. Please. You must come.”
“I promise” she smiled.
That night I finished my book. I felt strange as I put the pen down with the last word. As if I was finally at peace, but at some cost. The weight had left me but it was strange to have let go, to have nothing to clutch on to. But I had found my deliverance. In writing I had found my refuge, I had found my passion and my purpose.
I rushed to the park as evening came. I couldn’t wait to show Daffodil my book. Would she like it? I’m sure she would. I went to our spot, clutching on tightly to my book, almost bursting with excitement. I waited…..and waited….and waited…. She never come.
“Would you pass the ball please Mister.”
I picked up the ball and called out to the boy as I threw it back at him. “Have you seen my friend today?”
“The girl I always sit with.”
“You know, short, blonde, we sit here and read all the time.”
“Uhh, sir, I’ve never seen a girl with you.”
“I mean, I see you here every day. You sit over there don’t you? Looking at the daffodils down by the lake, but I haven’t seen a girl ever.”
I didn’t understand.
“You all right sir?”
I didn’t understand. I looked over at the tree.
“Is this your's sir? I found it by the bushes.”
It was a smallish book, black, hardbound and didn’t have a name on the cover. It looked a bit old but was still in pretty good condition.