Today's prompt was aimed at novelists as well as short story writers: to craft a turning point in the story. Very interesting challenge.
Imagine, a labyrinth in North Platte! It was just a path of crushed stone, lined with edging bricks, the kind used in landscaping. In the center were three small benches, just the right size for one person. On each one, a single word was incised: “Faith”, “Hope”, and “Love”. Anna stepped onto the path. “Oh”, she thought, “shouldn’t I have an intention first”. She hesitated, but then the word “journey” popped into her head. Wasn’t that her intention all along? To journey back to a place and time that no longer existed. And when you do that, is it even possible to know where you will end up? She paced the labyrinth, sometimes pausing to gaze up at the impossibly blue, clear sky, sometimes distracted by the man mowing his lawn in a nearby yard. She looked at the three benches in the center, as she moved closer and farther away from them as the path twisted around in its intricate pattern. She imagined her life as a jigsaw puzzle with an unknown picture. She’d found the corners, assembled the edge, and pieced together a few areas that seemed clearly defined. Now she was carefully connecting the remaining section, the jumble of colors and shapes that almost seemed familiar, but not quite. And suddenly, there she was at the center of the labyrinth, and she knew, deep in her being, that a piece was missing from the puzzle. She sank down on the bench inscribed “Love” and closed her eyes, with a sigh.
Peggy turned her head. Was that the wind picking up, or was it … a sigh? She looked toward the sound and, with a shock, realized that Mary’s eyes were meeting hers, open and focusing, for the first time in fifty-nine years.
Mary’s head tilted a bit on the pillow, and her expression changed to puzzlement. “No one has called me that since I was a little girl.” Then she was silent for a moment, wet her lips and asked, “Who are you?”
“I’m Peggy, dear. I’ve been waiting all this time for you.”
“Where did you find me? Did I faint at the labyrinth?”
Peggy felt confused and a little panicky. “Mary, you have been here nearly the whole time since the accident.”
Peggy started to explain, but stopped herself. Perhaps it would be too much of a shock to explain right now. Seeing Mary lick her lips again, Peggy stood up quickly. “I am going to get you some water. Just rest; I’ll be right back”.
Her hands shook as she got a glass from the cupboard and filled it at the kitchen tap. “I should call John,” she thought, but then realized he would be busy with the brown bag book talk for another hour. “No, I’ll just stay here and make sure she’s ok.”
At the library, John was getting nervous. The room was arranged, the coffee was made, and the projector was set up for the speaker, but Anna Whitmore was nowhere to be seen. A few early birds were already settling in, opening their sandwiches and take-out salads. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed Anna’s number. “I’m sorry,” a robotic voice answered, “ You have reached a nonworking number. Please check your listing and try again.” Maybe I should call the police, John worried. Returning to the meeting room, he glanced at the clock. Five minutes late. Maybe she was lost. He walked quickly back into the room. “Professor Whitmore is running late,” he announced nervously. “Please help yourself to coffee or tea while we wait.”
“Here’s your water, Mary.” Peggy tried to say it brightly, but her nonchalance was definitely forced. She watched as Mary reached for the glass, and took a long drink. Then, their eyes met again, for what seemed like a long time.
“Peggy, it’s been so long since I was Mary.”
“I know, dear. But you’re back now.”
“Call me Anna. I go by my middle name now. Anna Whitmore.”