‘Love’ a story by Maggie Reeve
She appeared at more or less the same time every morning. It was so regular I wondered if she set her alarm as a reminder to feed the birds. And she always wore one of her colourful hats. I used to watch her through the window as I drank my morning coffee.
The villagers said she’d lived there for eighty or more years and because of her many and varied hats, she became known as The Hat Woman.
I was told she had been in love with a man when she was young, who had been called up, to serve his King and Country, along with most of the men from the area, and like a lot of them, he never came back. Unlike most of those men and their sweethearts, these two didn’t marry before he left. They had promised each other they’d wait till after the War was over.
The Hat Woman grieved and wore only black every day for a whole year. Black shoes, black dresses, black coats and black hats and gloves. After that she wore bright colours and planted a garden full of flowers and vegetables.
When she went out, she sometimes took an easel and a bag of paints and brushes and made little paintings, which she exhibited at the village hall each summer. She gave flowers and vegetables to her neighbours and no one minded her oddly bright, home made clothes and strange hats. The flame red hair she’d had when she was young had faded now but her face was serene and beautiful. Even when she grew old and frail she still fed her birds. They had become the love of her life. They fed out of her hand then flew away into the trees and bushes.
But they always came back to her.
One day when I sat down with my coffee, she didn’t appear. It happened again the next morning, so I went and knocked on her door. No answer. I walked into the kitchen and saw her, sitting in her chair. There were old letters scattered around her feet. The paper had become yellow with age and they were all from the young soldier that never came back from the War.
I had fallen in love with her too.
(Photo By Gary Irwin [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)