A little mouse was scampering around at the park. The day was sunny, but cool. It was still a bit early in the day. Eliana, one of the 'regulars' was there though. She was taking pictures of the buds on the trees. It wouldn't be long until Rose, another regular, came to read on her lunch break. Rose seemed to favor the bench under the oak tree near the pond.
The wind blew gently and Myrtle, the little mouse, could sense a change. Myrtle stopped and looked around. It was then that she noticed someone she had not seen before. Myrtle watched curiously as this person wandered around the park, seeming a bit lost. Myrtle followed her around, make sure to keep a safe distance. Every so often, the person would stop, look up to the sky and sigh, She had something in her hand, but Myrtle couldn't figure out what it was.
They were soon by the pond. Myrtle liked this part of the park, but had to be cautious. Myrtle looked up and saw a smile spread across the person's face. It disappeared almost as quickly as it had come. The person sat down on the ground beneath the tree. She wrapped her arms around her bent knees and rested her chin on her arms. Myrtle approached slowly and stopped just out of sight. The person reached up and touched her cheek.
It was then that Myrtle could see the tears. This distressed the little mouse. She may have been just a wee mouse, but she understood so very much. Myrtle pondered if she could do anything to help this person. Most people who came to the park were usually happy. Of course there were times that they were not. The gentle breeze blew again and seemed to whisper a message to Myrtle. "Please go to her. You can help her."
Myrtle inched her way toward the person. "Pardon me," she squeaked. When the person heard it, she looked around trying to find the source. She then noticed Myrtle. "I must be losing it. I could have swore that mouse talked!"
"But I did talk!" Myrtle stated. "What did you lose?" The person just looked at her in disbelief. "I am a very special mouse. I can speak, but only under the right conditions. I understand almost all the time though."
The person finally spoke again, "the right conditions?"
"Yes, but even I am not sure what those 'right conditions' are. I just know sometimes I can talk and sometimes I can't."
The person sat there with a puzzled look on her face. "I'm Myrtle. Myrtle Cranberry. What is your name?"
"I'm… I'm Jessalyn. But my friends call me Jess." she responded, stunned that she was having a conversation with a mouse. "Pardon me for asking, but you seem so sad. Is there anything I can do to help? The people in the park often confide in me, never realizing I can understand them."
Jess replied, "I'll be okay. I always am. I have to be. There is no other choice."
"Are you sure?" Myrtle questioned not quite believing. "I'll just sit here for a bit in case you change your mind. This is my favorite place in the park."
Myrtle and Jess sat there quietly for a few minutes. The wind blew through gently again. "I am a bit sad today." Jess said softly.
"My heart is hurting. Truth is, it has been hurting a long time. I should be used to this by now… but it doesn't get any easier." Myrtle nodded her head in understanding. "Once upon a time, I was a Marine. Do you know what that is?"
"I remember hearing the word. It was the day of the Memorial Day picnic."
"Yes, that would be a time to hear it. A Marine is a soldier. I had to leave my home and go far, far away to protect the people who live here."
"That must have made you sad to leave your family and your home."
"That's another story, but you are right that I was sad. I was just looking for a place to fit in and not be seen as different. What happened was that I saw things that haunt me to this day. I am still have things that I am fighting. It is not always easy being me, you know?"
"I know what you mean. May I share something?" Jess nodded her head. "When I told you I was a special mouse, I meant it. The talking alone sets me apart from other mice. There is more to it than that. For as long as I can remember, I have been 'different'. When all the other mice were playing, I was over by the library. I also liked being around the older mice. I found the young mice just seemed so silly. I tried to be like them, but I never fit in either."
Myrtle continued, " So, one day, I made the choice to come and live at the park where it was calm and peaceful most of the time."
"Don't you ever get lonely? I do sometimes."
"Yes. Especially at first. I wondered if I had made the right choice. After being here for a while, I noticed that some people came here often. Once I recognized them as 'regulars' they became people I 'knew'. Like, Rose… she comes every day and reads. She brings me bits of cheese to nibble on. Eliana, who is over there taking pictures, takes my picture sometimes."
"I still do have days were I am lonely. On those days where it seems like the sun is gone for good, it is especially hard. I sometimes wonder what if I were more like the other mice. But, then I remember that I have seen and experienced things that no other mouse has gotten to. I remember something my grandfather used to tell me. He said, 'There will be hard days and the will be easy days. The trick was to hold onto the magic of the easy days and share it on the dark days."
Myrtle sat there quietly, giving Jess some time to think about it. "It isn't easy, is it?" Jess questioned. Myrtle shook her head. "It isn't. But, I try my best not to give up. You can't either. Somewhere, somebody is counting on you. You just may not know it yet. They could even be in your life right now and you just don't realize it."
"One more thing that my grandfather used to say was 'Those who have the most difficult journeys often have the sweetest rewards."
Jess looked suspicious. "You think that is true?"
"I don't know. But, it would be a shame not to try and find out, don't you think?"
For the first time, Jess started to smile again. Just about then, a turtle crossed in front of them. "Look at that turtle. I remember a kid reading a book about a turtle and a rabbit that had a race. The turtle, while slow, won the race because he didn't give up." Myrtle said as she looked up at Jess. She noticed that Jess had green eyes. I heard some people once discuss how eyes are like windows. What I see in your eyes is someone that doesn't give up… someone that has a quiet strength…."
Jess shook her head, but was still smiling. Myrtle continued, "Turtles have shells. When there is danger, they can retreat into them to protect themselves. I wish I had a shell too at times just to hide from the world on those dark days. But, turtles always do come out again."
"I said this is my favorite part of the park. It is because of the turtles. Turtles always seem so calm and gentle. Seeing them reminds me to slow down and take it easy."
Jess smiled and offered her hand to Myrtle. Myrtle hopped into it. Jess set Myrtle down on her knee. "I have an idea. Would you like to come home with me? I can keep you safe and you wouldn't have to be alone." Jess paused. "And I wouldn't either."
"I don't know. It is nice living here in the park."
"You can always come and visit."
-From then on, Jess (and Myrtle too) became 'regulars' at the park. Jess must have been special because Myrtle was always able to talk to her. And with time, Jess's heart started to heal.