She looked over her shoulder one last time. It was a long lingering glance on a park bench; their bench. She wiped the tear from her eye as she saw a tall man sit down. He appeared bent, burdened.
She clapped her hands in glee. “Mommy i can’t wait to get to the pony ride can’t we go – pleezzzzz.”
“‘Yes my dear let me finish packing our lunch.”
They were attending a lunch sponsored by the church in the city park. There would be games and prizes, clowns, ponies, balloons and cotton candy.
“Your type isn’t welcome here ma’am.” The gentleman smiled as he looked at the mother and daughter. “This here’s a church social.”
“Please can’t I ride the ponies and have some cotton candy?” the little girl asked trying not to cry.
“I’m sorry wouldn’t be right. They wouldn’t approve.” The man said glancing over his shoulders at a group of women in their Sunday best.
The mother and the daughter went to the far edge of the park, sat on a bench, and ate their lunch while many eyes peered scornfully.
The girl,now a beautiful young woman, had learned how to navigate around the influential people in their very small town. She wasn’t bitter. She just didn’t understand what the bias was; why people couldn’t like her.
“Please come to the movies. The tall young man asked her.” This was the twentieth time he had tried to ask her on a date.
She was tired of finding excuses to say “no.”
“It’s not that I don’t want to go out with him. It’s what the townspeople will say if they see us together.” She sighed after setting the phone into its cradle.
“Yes I will go with you,” she said after the twenty-sixth call.
And so it began – lunches, trips to the beach, nights kissing under the stars on a park bench.
“Marry me and spend the rest of your life as my wife. Let me love you always.” he said as he held her close on their bench.
“Yes, my love.” She whispered into the misty night.
They were in heaven as they glided over the preparations and the anticipation of life together.
She had longed to be accepted by one person in society. It was enough to be loved by this man even if the rest continued to place the burden of unacceptance and reproach on her shoulders.
“You can’t marry her. Don’t you know who her mother is?”
“I’m not marrying her mother. She is sweet and innocent; the people have marked her without knowing her.”
“You will ruin our family’s good name!”
He would have easily endured the scorn had it been aimed at him once or twice. Everyday, at least once, his mother aimed her artillery at his heart. Everyday she spewed forth insults.
She saw that he was worn, unhappy. She clasped his hands as they sat on their bench. She gently took a tear from her eye and placed it on his cheek where it mingled with his own.
“My heart is broken and I see no way out.” He cried into the air.
She wrapped his fingers around a tiny box. “This is the only way out for us, my dear. I love you. Go find someone who will make you happy and accepted by society.”
She stood up. Not wanting him to see her heart breaking she ran to her car.
That day, years later, she saw him on their bench. Because he loved her so much he had taken on the pain and suffering that society had directed toward her. He was bent over looking like an old man with a heavy burden.
Theme Thursday is a great place to read and write short stories. Our prompt this week: Park