A/N: This is a story written for the Some Kind of Wonderful prompt marathon. It is in response to: Prompt #1: "Who knew a postcard from a stranger could change everything?"
The smell of cleaning chemicals, the sound of her rubber shoes against the linoleum floor were all things that were familiar to Molly Stephens as she shuffled down the hallway. At the age of ninety-two, people were unable to grasp how the little old woman was still alive. Just a month previously, the staff of the small Colorado nursing home and her own family had believed that it was the end; that they were going to lose lively Molly Stephens for good. Something happened, though, something that brought her back just when she was so close to the end.
Molly made it back to her private room and looked around. This place wasn't much for her to call home, but it wasn't where she was; it was the memories contained in it that made it home. Photos lined the small two drawer nightstand and were also pinned up on the bulletin board along with a cat calendar. Her small mini fridge hummed in the corner where a picture of her deceased husband sat along with his watch and wallet and military awards. There was the chair that she had received for her eighty-fifth birthday in the corner along with the quilt her deceased sister had made for Molly and her husband's anniversary, which happened to also be the last one they celebrated together before Harold passed away from a stroke.
Molly sat down on the edge of the bed and looked out the only window in the room. The birds fluttered around her bird feeder as a squirrel ran across the open area to take cover in a tree. A nurse and another patient walked along the path and sat down on the swing.
She looked up as someone knocked on a door and found a blonde boy standing there. Drawing in her breath, she couldn't help but think about how much he looked like him. A dark haired boy walked up behind the blonde and rested his chin on the others shoulder.
"Hey, Grandma," the blonde said. Abrahan Stephens walked into the room, pulling the dark haired boy in after him. "How do you feel today?" Molly looked at her great-grandson and all she could see was a reflection of Harold when he was a teenager. This boy, though, was not Harold and she forced herself to remember that.
"Very good today," she said, holding her arms open for him to hug her. He bent down and wrapped his strong arms around the small woman. She closed her eyes, breathing in the cologne of her great-grandson before turning to the other boy. "I didn't forget about you." Brett Archibald smiled softly before he stepped forward and hugged the old woman as well.
"I have something for you," Abrahan told her, pulling a piece of paper out of his coat pocket and holding it out for her. A large smile spread across her face as she took the paper. "Who is the mystery person, anyways, Grandma?" He sat down next to her and pulled Brett down next to him. The woman turned the postcard over to see a picture of Big Ben on front.
"I don't have the slightest clue," she whispered as she read the shaky writing.
"Ah, come on," Abrahan said, watching her, "tell the story again."
Molly looked at the two eager lovers before smiling softly and closing her eyes for a brief period of time. "Alright, I'll tell the story."
London, England, 1937
Eighteen-year-old Molly Black stood with her best friend, Mary Allen, in front of Big Ben. She marveled at how large it was in real life rather than in the pictures she'd seen. Mary smiled at her excitedly and squeezed Molly's hand. This was the first day of their senior trip and Big Ben had been the thing Molly had demanded to see.
As she turned away from the structure, a striking blonde boy accidentally hit her shoulder. When she spun around, he met her eyes and his lips moved, but Molly didn't hear anything but the pounding of her heart.
"I'm sorry," the boy repeated with his thick accent. She managed to spit something out that somewhat resembled an acceptance of his apology. Beside her, Mary snickered as the boy walked away.
"You're smitten," she said, hooking her arm through Molly's as she steered her away. "Who knows, he may actually become your husband some day."
"Don't talk like that, Mary," Molly chastised her, finally back to normal. Her friend rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, right," Mary replied and pulled her into the crowd of tourists.
They walked around the rest of the day, taking in the sites, until it was time to meet with the rest of their class for dinner and then lights out. Molly was silent throughout the meal, thinking about the boy in front of Big Ben. She wasn't sure why she couldn't get him out of her head, she didn't even know him. Yet, he was there in her every thought. Mary thought that she was being unreasonable thinking about this boy. London, England was a big place, she had said, it wasn't like Molly would see him again.
Molly wasn't sure she believed it, though.
It was on the third day of the trip that Molly found a postcard stuffed underneath her hotel room's door. Frowning, she found it anonymously stamped with a silly cartoon on the front. She turned it over to read the chicken scratch writing on the other side. Barrett's Bar, 8:00 P.M. Tuesday night –A friend. She opened the door and glanced up and down the hallway to see if the mystery person was lurking, but no one was there.
She took her coat off her bed and pulled it on as she walked down the hallway to the lobby. Outside, the rain poured down on the poor bystanders waiting for transportation or to meet friends. She walked past a few of her classmates and picked up a pamphlet over the local dining places. As she ran her eyes through the brochure, she came up empty with finding the location of Barrett's Bar.
Eyeing the weather outside, she gathered up the will to enter the rain and stepped out of the hotel and onto the sidewalk. She hurried down the street, knowing that the only way to find out where the bar was located was to ask around to people who actually knew the location of places in the city.
She struck out several times by asking random people on the street—mostly because the people she'd asked weren't from London, but were just tourists like she was—until she finally found someone who knew the general location of it. That was all that Molly needed to know since she figured that she could find it even if she didn't have the direct address.
Whenever Molly did find it, she stared at the bar. It looked as though it could have fallen apart at any moment. The sign above the door held by a nail and was dangerously close to falling off and hitting a customer on the head. The paint was chipped off the building and the windows were covered with a layer of grime. If Molly wasn't so curious to see who this anonymous person was, then she would have just turned and walked away. She wasn't about to do that, though.
Whenever Molly pushed open the door and stepped inside, it was like stepping into a different world. The wooden tables were surrounded with black chairs and red padding on them. The bar had a few people lingering at it as a bartender worked behind the wooden counter. Swing music played from a jukebox in the corner as a couple of people played pool in the corner. Photographs loitered every empty space on the wall.
Molly didn't see anyone who resembled being close to her age, though, so she took a seat at a table and flipped through the menu that a waitress brought her. She ordered a glass of water before glancing around and finding that more people had filed in within the short amount of time that she'd been sitting there.
"That's all you're having?" a voice asked, thick with a British accent. Molly turned in her chair and found the blonde boy that had ran into her in front of Big Ben standing there, his hands in his tan pants. She smiled slightly.
"I'm not very hungry yet," she replied finally. She was struck again by how gorgeous he was with his slightly long blonde hair, green eyes, and high cheekbones. The muscles in his shoulders and arms were apparent even through the white shirt he wore.
"Ah, good," he said as he sat down across from her and looked through the menu she'd abandoned. He flagged down the waitress and ordered two orders of fish and chips before handing her the menu. "I bet you're curious about a few things."
"You think so?" she asked, arching an eyebrow at him. He flashed a smile.
"Yes, I do," he replied and leaned forward, resting his chin on his hands. "My name is Harold Stephens, native here to this great city called London. My father is a journalist and my mother stays at home to care for my three younger siblings, one girl and two boys. I attend the University of London, majoring in history. Let's see, I graduated first in my class last year, making me at the end of my first year of university."
"I have a question," Molly said, looking into his bright eyes. "Why did you send that postcard to me and how did you even find me?"
"Believe it or not, I spotted your friend as I was walking down the street and asked her for the hotel address of where you were staying. Ever since I saw you at Big Ben, I just couldn't get you out of my mind." Molly tilted her head to the side thoughtfully. "Look, I'm not a crazy person or anything; I don't want you to think that. I . . . I just couldn't bear the thought of you leaving and me never getting to introduce myself to you."
"Molly Black, that's my name," she said after a moment of considering rather or not to trust him. "I'm from Boulder, Colorado and a senior in high school. I want to become a teacher when I attend university. Uh . . . I'm an only child, but my best friend, Mary, is like an unofficial sister to me." She bit her lip before she thought about how she wanted to proceed. "I couldn't stop thinking about you, either, after I met you." A slow smile spread across the young man's face.
"I'm glad to know that I wasn't the only one," he replied as the waitress brought their food. "Ever had it before?" Molly assumed that he was speaking about the food and shook her head. "You'll love it."
They ate and kept trading stories about their childhood back and forth. Molly discovered that Harold had always been interested in learning to play the trumpet, but had never gathered the courage to tell anyone. Molly admitted that she hated to wear the skirts that she had to wear. He admitted to not being a fan of football while Molly stated that she had always wanted to take part in a sports team.
It was the little things such as those that they traded in that cozy bar until they were forced to leave by the bartender because it was closing time. Harold shyly held her hand as he escorted her down the sidewalk and towards the hotel she was staying at before she tugged him to a stop on the bridge and stared in awe at the clock tower.
"You really have a thing for that clock, don't you," Harold said with a grin on his face. She smiled back at him.
"There's just something about it that makes me fall in love all over again when I see it," she replied. Harold tugged on her hand.
"Come on, I should get you back before that friend of yours begins to worry," he stated. She laughed softly before allowing him to pull her away and towards her hotel.
Molly spent most of the remainder of the trip with Harold, who showed her all the popular places in London for not only the tourist, but for a few of the locals as well. He showed her London in a completely different way that would have been impossible with a tourist guide. Not only did she find herself having more fun than she had even with her best friend, but she was also falling in love with the city and the blonde boy, as well.
On the last day of her trip, Harold held Molly as she cried because she didn't want to leave him, but knew she had to. He promised that he would gather enough money from his work and come to see her as soon as he could, but until then they would have to make due on letters. He kissed her for the first time before she boarded the plane and then she left him.
That summer, Harold held true to his word and spent the summer with Molly. He proposed to her in July and married her in August. It was a small ceremony at the church where her dad preached, who married them in front of Harold's parents and Molly's family. It wasn't much, but Molly didn't need much. All she needed was the man that she could now call her husband. They moved to London to stay in Harold's apartment and attended the University of London.
In September of 1939, Harold was called off to fight with the British in the war that would become known as World War II. It was when Molly was standing in the place where she had first met Harold that she had been informed that he had been shot, paralyzing the left side of his body. It was a struggle, but they found a way to make it work. At the age of twenty-two, Molly gave birth to their first son and by the age of thirty-two, the couple had a houseful of five kids—three boys and two girls.
Big Ben remained dear to Molly's heart and it was a place that she and Harold visited before they finally moved back to the States after all their children had grown and left their home to start lives of their own. Eventually, the entire Stephens family lived in the state of Colorado to care for their aging parents.
Harold had a stroke in 2008 and passed away at the age of ninety. Molly fell into a deep depression until she received a post card with a photo of Big Ben on the front from a stranger. She never figured out who was sending them to her, but four times a year, she would receive one. They arrived on the anniversary of Harold's death, his birthday, Molly and Harold's anniversary, and finally Molly's birthday.
When Molly fell ill and it looked like the end, a nurse had entered the room with a postcard in her hand. Apparently, a young man had left it at the front desk, refusing to tell them anything other than it needed to be delivered to a Mrs. Molly Stephens as soon as possible. He believed that it would help her get well whenever everyone else had given up.
And it had.
Molly had bounced back to become a lively ninety-two-year-old woman with twelve grandchildren and six great-grandchildren—including the one who sat next to her at that moment. It was the memories of Harold and her senior year of high school that brought her back to the world. It was all because of the power of a postcard from a stranger.
Molly looked at the photo on the front of the postcard and flipped it over to read the back. On it was the address for the bar where she had her first date with Harold. The card was still signed "A friend", but she knew, somehow, that it was all much deeper than that.
"When you look into the mirror, Abrahan, I want you to think about what I am about to say," Molly told the blonde boy once she had finished her story. "You are the exact replica of your great granddaddy, you know? Your hair and your face—especially those eyes—are all features of him. I want you to remember that." He smiled and took the hand that was holding Brett's and took hers within it.
"I'll remember that, Grandma," he replied and squeezed her hand lightly. She nodded and could feel tears in her eyes, something that often happened after telling the story about her Harold.
"Thank you, Abrahan," she whispered.