© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

Sally sat on the edge of her bed gazing around the room she had slept in for the past ten years. She had given up the large master bedroom when her daughter Angel married Mike. It had been the proper thing to do, and the room had produced three terrific grandchildren for her. However, the time had finally arrived for Sally to leave her home: she knew she soon would need constant care with the way her eyesight was failing.

Sally stood, walked over to the window and pulled the curtain across. The old green barn was fuzzy from this distance. She noticed some missing boards and knew it wouldn’t be long before the entire barn would be gone. Then the memories it kept would vanish as well.

She glanced to the corral––empty now––closed her eyes and dreamed back to her first adventure there. She had been six, and her father thought it was time for her to learn to ride the farm pony. Sally smiled. The pony only cooperated for two rounds and then dumped her off. It was two years before she set foot in a stirrup after that experience.

“I did become a pretty good rider in the long run, though,” Sally giggled as she let the curtain fall back into place. “Can’t remember for the life of me what the name of that darn pony was!”

Sally ambled around the room. She inscribed her name, via fingertip, in the dust on the old walnut dresser. She didn’t dare take it with her for fear someone besides family would snatch it. It was a family heirloom, passed to her mother, from her mother, and goodness knows from where––“I think you came from Scotland, didn’t you, old friend?” Sally muttered to the dresser. “Held a lot of things for me over the years, some secrets too, didn’t you?” She stroked the wood.

She began opening the drawers, double-checking for any left behind treasures she might have missed while packing. In the bottom drawer, she noticed a black and white photo that was almost ready to escape out the far back corner.

Sally retrieved the picture and stared at it longingly. She raised it to her mouth and breathed a soft kiss to the lips that smiled to her. She heaved a deep sigh as the photo misted over, then laid it gently in the still open suitcase on the bed. Sally took one more look around the room before she closed the lid and snapped it shut. There was just one more thing she had to do before leaving. She retrieved her cane from beside the night stand and headed out the door.

The trek to the barn was slow for Sally. Her old bones didn’t move as quickly as they had back when memories were vivid, and the future was even brighter. She pushed open the barn’s man door and stepped inside. The fragrant smell of hay was sweet to her nostrils.
“At least my sense of smell isn’t going yet,” she muttered as she closed the door.

Rays of sunlight forced their way through the cracks and into the barn. They would make Sally’s task much easier. She made her way over to the special wall––the one where everyone had etched their love. Arthur loves Maggie…George loves Betty…James and Donna Forever…lots of hearts and arrows and stick people kissing. And there, right in the bottom left-hand corner, the inscription Sally was searching for: Jonah and Sally, our love as soft as petals on a morning rose, as strong as steel upon the bridges of time, love forever, never forgotten! Tears began to roll down Sally’s withered cheeks.

She shook her head––that had been a terribly long time ago. Jonah was gone. In fact, Sally had no idea where he was; he just disappeared without a trace, without a word. Her heart never mended, but she had been forced to push onward with life. Now that she was departing from her home and her memories, Sally knew she must leave Jonah a note––just in case he returned.

She reached into her pocket and pulled out a red marker. Her arthritic fingers painstakingly began to print her message on the old barn wall.

Dear Jonah––if you do return, like I have always dreamed you would, I want you to know I never stopped loving you. There is no one for me, but you. I am waiting at the old folks home, Paradise Acres, you know the one where we used to visit old Mr. Crabbit…I have a lovely room there…private so we can be alone. I hope you are able to read this, my writing is so frail, but my mind is still sharp with the memories of our love. Don’t be afraid to come…we have much to catch up on…love forever…never forgotten…your Sally.

P.S. our daughter––I named her Angel––is beautiful. We have three incredible grandchildren: Jonah, Jason, and Julia. I left some pictures for you in the box at our secret place…do you remember where…three steps to the left…one to the right…four forward from the old oak tree…

Sally returned the marker to her pocket, turned slowly and left the warmth of the old barn wall.