There was once an old cottage on the edge of the woods. In that cottage loved a little old woman, along with two young children, who she had been caring for. The children were brother and sister. The brother was a timid sort, who preferred to stay inside with his books all day. The sister, on the other hand, was very adventurous and found trouble often. They slowly grew in that cottage, unaware of the world beyond the trees and dusty roads, knowing only the old woman’s love.
One day, the skies were heavy with rain, with pitter-pattered like a clock. Both siblings found themselves seated around a roughly hewn table, contemplating on the fact that the old woman did not come out of her room for breakfast. This was rather odd, but the two (who were now in their young adulthoods) thought nothing of an old woman wanting for a little extra sleep. With that sort of thought, the two ate and saved the older woman’s share for later, before the sister went out to her garden and the brother went to study his tomes.
When noon passed, and the two still did not see hide nor hair of the woman, they became concerned. That was most unlike the old woman and was cause for alarm.
The brother knocked on the door, behind which the old woman slept. There came no reply. Afraid, he turned to his sister, “Do you think…?”
Shaking her head and taking a deep breath, the sister announced her intent to enter and opened the door. The room was dimly lit. The two cautiously approached, with hearts in their throats. The old woman was fast asleep in her bed. They let out the breaths they were holding.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, the brother gently shook the shoulder of the old woman. She did not awaken. Concerned, he shook a little harder.
Finally, the old woman opened her eyes.
However, the lively spark usually found within her kind blue eyes, was merely a sparkle. The siblings looked at each other. Things were not well.
“Oh? Have I overslept, dears?” the old woman asked. She seemed to had lost a good amount of her energy. “I’m sorry, I’m sure you can do with a hearty breakfast by now.”
The old woman struggled to get out of bed. Watching her struggle, the brother placed a hand on her shoulder and pressed her gently back against her pillows. Knowing what was likely to come, the two locked eyes and nodded. They agreed not to let sorrow overtake them just yet, as there was still some life in that old frame.
“No worries, let us take care of you, as you have taken care of us,” the sister replied, preparing to retrieve the leftover bread, meats, and cheese from that morning.
“Don’t hesitate to ask for anything,” the brother added. Although the old woman seemed as though she was going to disagree, she remained resting against her pillows.
“While you eat, would you like me to read to you?” the brother asked, after his sister had brought in a tray of tea and food.
“That would be lovely.”
And so the days continued much in the same way. The brother would spend hours narrating grand adventures only found in old novels, while his sister prepared meals that went mostly uneaten. Both knew that their time with the old woman was short, but endeavored to enjoy it as much as they could, making sure to create tender memories.
Almost a month later, on a day that the skies were blue as aquamarines and the wind was still, the two entered the room as was their routine. In the sister’s hands was a tray of fresh bread and warm honey tea, while a large tome was held in the brother’s. The room was filled with light, which flowed through the large windows and across the bed in which the old woman slept. However, this time, the woman was no longer sleeping.
The room was still, save for a handful of dust motes dancing along a beam of sunlight.
Silently, the brother laid down his book and the sister her tray. They had know this day would come, but it still didn’t make it any easier. Not a word was spoken, as the brother held his sister, and she held him in turn.
When the tears stopped, the two partook of the bread and tea, at the side of the bed. A small portion was left behind of the plate. Their final meal as a family…
Then, a few pages– a poem– were read aloud for all to hear, before the page was bookmarked to never be read again.
Finally, in the evening, a grave was filled and covered with wildflowers, a heel of bread, and a book. As the sun went down, the two looked at their work. Many might say that this was all that was left of an old woman who had raised two children, but they would be wrong. The siblings knew better: all the memories and love they held for the old woman was what remained after all was said and done. They did not see themselves as unfortunate in that regard, as they were happy with what had been given to them. They had been loved and in turn had loved, and in the end, what more could anyone hope for?