Winter sneaks up, slowing the flow of blood, gnarling the joints and fogging the brain. But old Jeannie is lucky. Her room has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the garden. She loves to settle in her upright chair and stare out.
Her daughter said she’d become maudlin and bought a bird table for her patio. It’s the best present ever. Yesterday, a siskin, its plumage the colour of a lion’s pelt, hung acrobatically from the feeder. Statue-like, Jeannie hardly dared to breathe.
Today, Bill the gardener, is raking leaves, his movements keeping birds at bay. He glances in her direction and Jeannie raises her twisted fingers in hope of recognition. A flash of crimson catches her eye—Bill has brought his granddaughter with him. What a darling, in her scarlet duffel coat, matching Wellington boots and scarf. Jeannie leans forward, her breath misting the glass.
Little Red Riding Hood squats on chubby legs, selects a leaf and tosses it skywards. She’s up and down like a rubber ball. Now and then she pulls on her granddad’s trouser leg and brandishes another treasure.
Then she angers him by kicking his tidy pile of leaves. Jeannie recognises the pull of tiny shoulders and the downward turn of her mouth. Tears are close, but Bill flourishes an old-fashioned bubble blower from his pocket.
She imagines the child’s squeal of delight and rubs her curled fist over the clouded pane. Within seconds a froth of bubbles floats in the air as the girl twirls and puffs her fairy tale magic. Rainbow-coloured globes rise and burst in quick succession. Each one a magnified snapshot of the garden, bringing radiance to a dull December day.
Bill pauses his raking and points at the bird table. Finger firmly pressed to her rosebud lips, the poppet creeps to where a robin perches. Startled, it flies into the trees.
Jeannie taps on the window, wanting to lose her cloak of invisibility. Red Riding Hood smiles and blows a flurry of bubbles towards Jeannie. Tears of joy spring at this small kindness.