Slamming her bedroom door shut behind her, Willow ran across the room and pulled her little white dressing table towards the door. Pushing it up against the door handle in order to disable it from turning, Willow was still unsure of her door being secure. In the corner of her room stood a heavy, dark brown chest that had been given to Willow by her grandmother This should do it. Leaning all her weight against this chest, Willow pushed it with her whole body, until it came to rest against the legs of the dressing table. Finally satisfied that she was secure, Willow threw herself down on her bed and waited for the knocking to start.
Knock, knock, knock, knock…
“WILLOW!!!” came the cry!
Knock, knock, knock, knock…
“WILLOW, you are a DREADFUL child! Let me IN!!”
Knock, knock, knock, knock…“WILLOW!!”
Despite her calling, her rattling the handle, hammering and occasionally kicking on the wood, the door remained secure.
Fixing her eyes on the ceiling, Willow waited in silence for peace to descend. Half an hour later, all was quiet.
Slowly, Willow arose from her bed, restored her pretty, white dressing table, and the big, dark chest, back to their rightful positions in her room. Quietly, opening her door very softly, Willow crept across the landing towards the door with the big, boldly written DO NOT DISTURB notice on it.
The door was slightly ajar – enough for Willow to see her lying there on her bed, exhausted by her demons, fast asleep, and utterly unaware of Willow.
Shaking her head, Willow tip-toed past the door and headed down the stairs and out of the house, heading towards the fields and woods that lay just a little way further along the road.
Pulling her purple hoody tightly up against her, Willow felt as though she were somehow quite undressed. Although the sun was shining, and there was not a single cloud in the sky, nothing felt warm, nothing felt secure, and most disturbingly, the ground appeared to be undulating beneath her feet.
This is most strange! thought Willow. I will go to the meadow – I’m sure I will feel much better there.
Willow arrived at her beloved meadow, and was numbed by what she found there today.
Standing before what was usually a bright, colourful, plume of light, Willow was saddened to see a mere trickle of water where the fountain so often stood. Faintly, shining in the watery afternoon sun, the fountain was barely there at all.
Glancing towards the borders of the meadow, Willow was further dissapointed to notice that the stream was shallow, with none of those beautiful, sparkling golden lights dancing across its surface today, at all.
Looking up into the trees, Willow could neither see, nor hear, any of the birds singing to each other across the branches .
How was this possible? How was it possible for the meadow to appear so bleak, so lifeless, so utterly without joy.
“Come on, Willow. Someone is waiting for you!”
Grateful to turn and find Dog standing just behind her, Willow nodded, and followed him back out of the meadow to the Great Oak Tree, and Jay.
Hardly noticing the door handle today at all, Willow placed her hand on its cool, smooth surface, and pushed the door open, stepping eagerly into Jay’s beautiful home.
A little lamp was lit beside where she sat, and, without waiting for invitation, Willow walked straight over to the desk where Jay was sitting, and burst into tears.
“Goodness, Willow! Now, what can possibly be so terrible, as to have caused you to feel this way? Has something happened?”
“That’s just it, Jay. Nothing has happened. It’s always just the very same thing. She gets better – she gets worse – she gets better again – and then we are right back where we always were. I don’t feel well, Jay. I don’t feel as though I can even talk about it.”
After a very brief moment of silence, Jay rose to her feet. Switching off the lamp at her desk, Jay gestured for Willow to follow her. ” Come, Willow. Come to the rug at the foot of my bed. I think a little nap might do you the world of good.”
Gratefully sinking deeply into the soft, pure white rug that lay at the foot of Jay’s bed, Willow just heard herself saying: “But the meadow Jay…even the meadow was bleak and dull and…” when her eyes closed, and Willow felt herself drifting weightlessly off to a place far, far from here…
Enfolded in what felt like the softest, downy feathers on earth, and carried on the air of her very own breath, Willow found herself floating across a landscape of voices…
“WILLOW!! WILLOW!!” she called! Willow turned away from the voice and spiralled down a tunnel of white, further and further away from the sound of her voice.
Most astonishingly, Willow found herself plunging towards what appeared to be a desert, far down below her. Yes, it was a desert, across which loped a tall, light, golden brown camel!
Landing right in front of the camel, Willow sat up and gazed into the soft, gentle face of this gangly, but rather beautiful creature who was chewing on his fleshy brown lip, and slowly opening and closing his long, long dark eyelashes.
“Hello, Camel! We have met before.” Willow smiled. Truthfully, she was rather pleased to see him here, in this very strange, extremely unreal landscape.
“Willow, I have come here to speak to you. Listen to me.”
The camel spoke very, very slowly indeed. He had a full, deep, and very rich voice.
“Yes, Camel. I shall listen.”
“Willow, it is no good feeling the burden of what you are experiencing through her. Try to let it go.”
“You can talk of burdens, Camel!” cried Willow. “You carry a HUGE burden on your back wherever you go!”
” I carry what is mine, Willow. What you are carrying is not yours to carry. Put it down Willow. Put it down.”
With his very words, Willow felt herself lifted from below the camel’s gaze, and spun back up into the spiral of white that swirled around them both.
“Goodbye, Camel!” she called. “I shall miss you!”
Now, drifting again across the feathery, soft white around her, to her complete surprise Willow found herself drifting past Butterfly along the way.
Fluttering her wings, Butterfly paused for a moment on Willow’s shoulder. It seemed she too had something to say to Willow.
“Learn how it feels to be YOU, Willow! Enjoy being YOU! Don’t worry if you can’t understand the language of others. Just be sure you understand your own!”
“Butterfly!! Hey, WAIT!! Wait…where are you going?”
Fluttering her wings even faster, clearly enjoying being swept along in the white, Butterfly vanished up into a cloud, right before Willow’s eyes!
Goodness, what was THAT? A tiny little ladybird jumped off Willow’s arm and spun out into the white after Butterfly! Was she there all along, too?
“Just remember, Willow, if you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there!”
GRASSHOPPER! Such a bright, fresh green against the white, Grasshopper danced from white cloud, to white cloud before Willow’s gaze.
“Oh, Grasshopper, I remember your telling me this before! But how…how do I use that knowledge when it comes to her – when it comes to losing my best friend – when it comes to life?”cried Willow.
“Willow – because you can’t see, or understand why something happens, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a very good reason for it. It may just be that there is something you simply can’t see. Yet.”
With that, Grasshopper jumped up and disappeared into the white that surrounded them.
Floating…floating…drifting…Willow sank deeper and deeper into the rug, until finally, it was all quiet. Finally, the voices stopped. Finally, all was calm.
“Are you feeling better now, dear?” Leaning over Willow, Jay was smiling the warmest smile Will had ever seen her smile.
“Yes,Jay, I do. Jay, I went to this very strange place in your rug! I saw the Camel, and Butterfly, the Grasshopper – even Ladybird flew past! All my dearest friends were somehow there – deep inside your rug!”
“Willow, wherever you go in life, these friends of yours will be there for you. You wont have to look far to find them.”
“I wont always have your beautiful rug, though Jay. Will I?”
“Oh yes, Willow, you will. That is what I want to tell you, dear. My beautiful white rug will always be there. Remember what you have learned. Because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Any time you would like to visit me, or any of your friends, just close your eyes and imagine my rug wrapped around you.”
Something in Jay’s voice puzzled Willow a little, but she was not quite sure what it was. Slowly, she rose to her feet, strangely realising that if Jay were the kind of person one would hug, she would have hugged her, right there and then. But Jay wasn’t like that, and in truth, neither was Willow.
“Well, Jay, I can always come and visit you here, in your beautiful Oak Tree.”
“You can always go to the meadow, Willow. You can always visit your fountain. It’s yours. While it may be hard to see sometimes, it will never truly go away.”
The fountain! Yes, of course! I should go to the fountain immediately, while it is still light, and see if it is back!
“I’d better go, Jay! I want to see if the fountain is back again! I must hurry while it is still light!”
It was then that the most unusual thing happened. As Willow reached the door, she called back over her shoulder to Jay:
“Thank you so much, Jay! It was wonderful to lie in your rug today! I feel so very much better! Goodbye, Jay!”
“Goodbye, Willow. I love you.”
Stopping at the door, Willow turned back to gaze at her darling Jay in awe.
“I love you Willow. You will be alright, you know. You will be alright.”
Slightly stunned be the intensity with which Jay had spoken, and somewhat in awe of the words Jay had used, Willow almost whispered her reply:
“I love you too, Jay. Goodbye.”
Feeling more than a little strange, Willow placed her hand on the doorknob and noticed that soft, white clouds were swirling across its broad, smooth surface. Jay never says she loves me, thought Willow. I wonder why she is saying it now.
On reaching the meadow, Willow laughed out aloud as Dog raced up to the huge plume of water that was the fountain! Jumping up to catch drops of water in his mouth, Dog barked at the slowly sinking sun, shaking himself vigorously over and over again. Willow saw that the stream was full too, and smiled at the golden droplets of light that danced across its surface. Everything was just as it should be in the world again!
“Dog, let’s go back and tell Jay that everything is alright again!”
Dog barked, but didn’t move from the fountain.
Leaving him behind her, Willow raced back to the Great Oak Tree to tell Jay the good news! As she approached the tree, Willow saw that the door was open.
“Jay? Jay, where are you?” she called.
Stepping through Jay’s beautiful little house, Willow noticed that no lights were on, and no soft, white rug lay at the foot of Jay’s bed.
How she knew it, she was never quite sure. But in those moments, Willow knew that Jay had gone.
Willow didn’t know how long she lay there. However long it was, it was dark, and the sky was full of stars when she finally rose to her feet, and walked slowly out of the house. Placing her hand on the shiny doorknob for the very last time, Willow saw, clearly written in golden letters across the broad, smooth surface of that magical doorknob, the words:
I LOVE YOU, WILLOW. I LOVE YOU.