The day that changed her life

Irene did not know why she could sleep that night. The day had been an uneventful one, picking up her younger brother from school then cooking dinner for her family. Her mother had simply disapeared upstairs to sleep after the meal forgetting, yet again, to thank Irene. The weather had been dreary and dull, rain clouds hid the once sparkling and sunny sky. It was as if they were hiding the sun from the world, a place one perfect but now tainted by humanity. As a child, Irene had been very interested in astronomy and the study nature, but as she grew from a delightful toddler into a troubled teen, she found little time for such hobbies. Irene did not hate her home, her family, or anything for that matter. Irene could never hate, she simply did not see the point adding more anguish to such an already damaged world. She grew weary, weary of the sun that rarely shone in the supposidly blue sky, weary of the persistant bickering of her younger siblings, weary of picking up the newspaper every morning only to read about death and destruction. Irene wanted to change things, but she had no belief in herself, she never thought it possible for the content of such a huge county to hear her tiny cries for mercy on the poor and sick, for forgiveness and love between humanity. Irene have up her dreams long ago, but this night she had not slept for thinking of them. She lay on the floor of her cluttered bedroom, half asleep and half aware of her surroundings, simply thinking. You must be the change you wish to see in the world. She sat up dazed and rubbed her eyes. Where had she heard that? Then she saw it, the book of quotes that was lying half on her bed, the front cover flipped over so it had been in plain view of Irene's head. She picked up the book cautiously, closing the front cover and running her hand gently along the spine. Three years ago, her birthday, Auntie May. Of course, it had been a gift from her mother's sister when she had turned eleven. Eleven... Irene remembered that day vividly, she remembered feeling so grown up, as if she could take on the whole world, but dreams never last in a world this cruel. Mahatma Gandhi, it was he who had said those wisdom filled words. Irene smiled to herself as she placed the dusty book back onto her bookshelf. It was dawn now. The suns calm and gentle rays tickled her skin as they danced through the bedroom window. Irene shielded her eyes and walked over to the open window watching the sun slowing rise above the many rooftops.

"Softly the evening came. The sun from the western horizon Like a magician extended his golden wand o'er the landscape; Trinkling vapors arose; and sky and water and forest seemed all on fire at the touch, and melted and mingled together. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow" Irene whispered to herself. How she could remember such a quote at 5 am in the morning, without a wink of sleep since the previous night, she did not know. But it had suddenly come to her and the words had spilt out, like a prayer to nature. Irene was suddenly gripped by a longing to follow the sun in its daily course, to walk with it as it crossed the city, viewing each life form under its motherly gaze. She knew her own mother would never allow it, but Irene still wanted to be closer to this buring fire set in the sky like a twinkling ruby. She looked back to her room and her eyes fell apon the quotes book Auntie May had given her. She walked to the bookshelf and quietly slipped it out of its dusty pocket. It was dangerous from a young girl to leave her home at such a desolate time of the day where she could easily be attacked or raped in this part of London, but Irene felt a burning desire to take the risk. The sun would protect her on her journey. Feeling like this was an adventure, Irene slipped on an oversized grey cardigan over her worn jeans and old black t-shirt. Her mother did not care about the fashion trends these days, and Irene often had to make do with hand me downs form her old sister. Money was tight in their family, but that did not stop her father for religiously making his trip down to the 'Fox and Hound' pub on the corner. Her mother never complained when he came back at 2 o'clock in the morning, blind drunk and swearing. Although, if Irene, or one of her siblings, had been caught spending bus ticket money on sweets there would be endless rowing and lectures from both of her parents. Money was tight, yet her father had his excuses for the money he wasted. Her mother always forgot about it when he tickled her waist and called her 'his lovely one'. Irene was often embaressed and ashamed of how gullable her mother could be, but she chose to ignore it.

Picking up her keys and the heavy book she turned to leave her silent bedroom. She felt as if the walls were watching her as she closed the door and crept down the stairs. Irene froze when she thought she heard movement from her parents bedroom and prepared herself to run back up to the safety of her bedroom, but it was only her father turning over in his sleep. When she was quite sure she was not going to be discovered, Irene continued to creep down the winding staircase. When she got to the front door she opened it silently, slipped through the small gap she had allowed herself (for she knew that the door tended to creak when opened too far) and the heavy door clicked shut behind her. Irene took in a deep breath of air and shut her eyes. She was out, free to roam about wherever she pleased. A baby's cry startled her and she opened her eyes to see a young mother pushing along a buggy. Inside the buggy was a small baby, no less than a couple of months, with its face furrowed in discontent. Irene wondered what had made it so unhappy, and then she saw, it had dropped it's toy. The mother looked stressed and tired, so Irene knealt down, picked up the toy and handed it back to the baby, which promptly stopped screaming. She smiled at the little boy, and it grinned back at her.

"Thanks darlin'" The young mother said smiling at her.

"Children have neither past nor future; and that which seldom happens to us, they rejoice in the present -Jean de la Bruyere" Irene smiled back holding out her hand. "My name is Irene, I live in number 37"

"I'm Claire, number 22. That's a beautiful quote luv" The mother replied taking her hand and then glanced at the dusty book that Irene clutched to her chest. "I can see you're a clever one, Missy, betcha your mother's proud!" Irene thought about this for a second.

"I think of it more as, she will be proud of me in the future, and all I have to do is prove my worth to her" She said thoughtfully.

"Well I'm a mother and I'm proud of you. Kids these day's, not a thought for anyone but themselves. Your a wonderful little girl Irene, and don't you forget it!" Claire laughed. Irene thanked her and they said their goodbyes. As she walked away, Irene felt a strange sensation that was totally new to her. It made her feel good about who she was, made her feel fuzzy inside. She had a smile on her face as she jumped over the fence that seperated the council homes from the Thames River. She landed with a thud on the grass on the other side and looking around. By now the sun was rising steadily and the once reddish glow that set fire to the tops of trees had now transformed into a gentle golden light that reflected off the surface of the water. Irene ran up to the wall between her and the murkey water

"And see the rivers how they run Through woods and meads, in shade and sun, Sometimes swift, sometimes slow,-- Wave succeeding wave, they go a various journey to the deep, Like human life to endless sleep- John Dyer" She said outloud to the almost motionless water, the waves beat harder against the old grey brick in reply.

"Not good enough for you?" Irene asked the river. "OK, I'll find another..." She balanced the quotes book on the curve of the wall and swung herself up next to it. When she was sitting comfortably she took the book and opened it on her lap. On finding a quote she closed the book and smiled to herself.

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by beautiful waters- Norman Fitzroy Maclean" She read out to the gently swaying waters. Irene waited for a moment taking in the depth of the dark uninviting waters. A small blue bird suddenly flew out of nowhere and perched on a tree branch near to Irene. She smiled thinking this was obviously natures way of saying yes.

It was then that Irene realised that it was not who she was that made her who she could be. She was a poor, young girl from London, she had always thought that that was who she would always be; But today she had realised that she could change that, she could be a wonderful person with the things she did. Claire had said she was wonderful, and all because she chose to help a tired mother with her child. In normal circumstances, Irene would have been far too shy to make such a move. But what had she to be afraid of? Nothing, just a lovely woman and her lovely baby. Irene realised now who she had to be. She had to be the change she wished to see in the world, and she intended to be.

"Let us live then, and be glad while young life's before us. After youthful pastime had, After old age had and sad, Earth will slumber over us" Irene whispered to herself then opened her arms to embrace life with loving arms.