We Can Smile Again … Part one of a Halloween story


Part One of Two

© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

There is a part of me that wishes it never happened; yet, the satisfied part of me cannot help but to smile. Sylvia smiles, as well. And she dances, too––like a mad fairy.


            I grew up in the small town of Waterford. Sylvia moved next door when we were the tender age of thirteen. She was from Hamilton, and I was enthralled the “big-city girl” paid attention to me. We became best friends, and our friendship has survived for we share secrets that are buried in our hearts’ darkest corners. 

            There was madness in Sylvia’s eyes––her mother’s, too. In fact, when Sylvia had shown me some old family pictures––all had the same look. One thing I had noticed was there were no males in the photos. I never thought to ask Sylvia about that, though.

            Sylvia and I did not play the silly games girls of thirteen participated in. We had a secret place. It was secluded in a grove of trees on top of a hill. It had been the servant quarters for the old Cooper house that Sylvia and her mother now lived in. I spent hours, with pen and paper creating imaginary worlds. Sylvia shaped her clay and danced. We were content. Life was good. 

Sometimes, we would sit by one of the windows and peek at the outside world. We’d smile to each other as we observed the other teens playing at being adults, and then returned to our work––I, to my pages––Sylvia, to her clay. 

And then, came the summer of, Samwell. He arrived from Mexico, to work in the tobacco fields, and we were caught unprepared for his devastating charms––especially did he catch Sylvia. I would go to our secret place and find the door bolted. I would knock, but there was never an answer. Baffled, I’d walk back down the path, sit by the oak tree, and wait. She would tire of him soon––she’d never favour him above our friendship! I was sure of that.

When we did have time together, I noticed Sylvia seemed self-absorbed with other things, none of which she confided to me. She’d just walk dazedly around the room, trailing her fingers over the dusty pottery.

And then there was the fact that Samwell always seemed to lurk nearby whenever I was with Sylvia. I would observe him leaning against the old oak tree, a cigarette hanging from his mouth, and a smirk on his face as he starred up to the shack. It was as though he were just waiting for me to leave so that he could move in.

When we came down the hill, Sylvia would walk past him, but I observed the obscene body language between them. Once in my house, I took to going directly to my bedroom, where I would watch from my window. Sylvia always raced back to the oak tree––to him.

I cried a lot that summer, waiting for the tobacco harvest to be over. Samwell would go home then, and my friend would return to me. I would exonerate her of the transgression against our friendship, just as I was sure Sylvia would have exonerated me had I made a mistake.

Summer took her leave; fall strutted in with glorious, rustic colours. The tobacco workers began to disappear from our streets. But, Samwell did not leave. And then Sylvia brought me the boxes that contained my writings. Her eyes were crazy as she handed them to me.

“Samwell missed his plane home and won’t be able to get another flight for a month or two. The airline won’t refund his money, so he has to get a job to buy another ticket. He will be able to save quicker if he doesn’t have to pay rent, so I said he could stay up on the hill. I don’t want him to poke through your stories. You can return when he is gone.”

That was it. Sylvia just left and headed back up the hill to “our secret place.”  I carried the boxes to my room, went to my window, watched my friend disappear up the hill, and cried––again.

Sylvia began missing school. When she did show up, there was an awkward silence between us. The magic of the past three years was gone.

“When is he leaving?” I asked on one of those days.


“Well, it has been a month; November is almost here and the weather is going to get worse. Not paying rent, I just thought he might have saved enough for his plane ticket by now.”

“He did, but he sent his mother the money to buy medicine for his little brother.”

“Doesn’t she want him to come home?” 

“Not really. Besides, there is nothing there for him. He might stay here … what are you looking so glum about … at least he has a job.” 

“But he can’t stay up there!” I spoke sharply.

She grabbed my arm, and swung me around to face her. “Give me one good reason why not!” Her eyes were gleaming madly.

“Ouch!” I pulled away. “What’s going on Sylvia? I thought we were friends––that is supposed to be our place. I thought Samwell was temporary! What is happening to you?” I burst into tears.  

“Sorry if I’ve hurt you, Carey, but as great grandmamma used to say, life moves on, and so do people.”

Her answer cut my heart. “So … this means you are moving on?” 

“Yes.” She got up and left the school. I knew where she was headed––without me. As I watched her leave, I noticed the change in her movement––her feet did not dance as they had a few short months ago. It was at that point that I knew something was drastically wrong!

Part two…October 31, 2012


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