The Girl in the Glass Jar
There was a little girl trapped in a glass jar. Inside the jar there grew a small tree with a single leaf that she loved to sit under and rest her head against. Other things grew in the jar too: there were some small flowers whose nectar was sweet to drink and enough grass to make the glass floor comfortable. But on top of the jar there was a lid.
The little girl did not remember when she had come to be in the jar – she had been there as far back as her memories went. She did not know if she had a mother or father or siblings, because the jar was the only thing she could recall. Despite all that she was content.
Through the glass of the jar she could not see anything but a vast expanse of blue. It was the prettiest blue she had ever seen – prettier than the blue that grew on her flower petals, and even prettier than the berries that stained the hems of her skirts. However, no matter how mesmerized she was of the pretty blue, she still found herself getting very lonely. She tried to ease her boredom by painting. The little girl would crush berries and flowers to make gorgeous shades of greens, and reds, and yellows; she would peel the bark off the tree for her canvas, and use her fingers as brushes. She would mix her homemade shades to get new ones – purples and oranges – but she could never duplicated the dazzling shade of blue that was right outside the walls of her glass jar.
One day the little girl decided to take a nap. She lay back against her miniature tree and folded her hands underneath her cheek to slowly drift to sleep.
When she awoke a few hours later she was surprised. She gasped and jumped up from her tree. There, standing in front of her, was a little boy. He was wearing a black coat, and a black hat to cover the messy blonde shocks of hair that jutted out at angles from beneath it. He was staring at her, almost close enough to touch the glass if he reached out, but looking as though he would not dare. Deep within his posture there was a curiosity that she saw, and this made her curious in turn. Cautiously she took a small step forward.
The little girl threw her hands up to cover a gasp of surprise. Now that she was closer to the boy she could see the brilliant shade of blue in his eyes. They were the same color as the blue beyond her jar!
Neither of them said a word; they simply gazed upon one another. She was not sure how long she and the little boy looked, but suddenly he glanced over one shoulder and ran away.
He came back. Every day he came back just as she woke up from her nap, and every day he would glance over one shoulder and run away – each day coming nearer and nearer to the other side of her glass. The seventh time he came was the closest he had ever gotten to her jar. He was right outside the glass! She smiled at him and turned a piece of bark over. It was one of the first paintings she had ever done: her tree with its twisting trunk and single leaf. Gently she lay the painting up against the glass so that the picture was facing him. For you.
The little boy blushed, and reached out a finger to trace along the lines of the painted tree. He turned back to the little girl and gave her a shy smile before reaching into the pocket of his pants. The little boy pulled out a handkerchief tattered and stained from usage, but nonetheless made with fine silk. He left it in front of her jar, glanced back over one shoulder, and ran away.
On the eighth day she had another painting waiting for him. This one was of the way the blades of grass looked if she lay down and turned her head sideways. He too had another gift for her: a small bouquet of blue cornflowers. They left their gifts against the glass, and he ran away again.
By the twelfth day the little girl had started to look forward to his visits immensely. She could never wait to see what strange and fascinating object the little boy would produce from his pocket next. It had been a necklace one day, and the next a book. For each present he gave she would always have another painting for him.
The day after the twelfth the little girl had woven together two crowns of flowers. Smiling brightly at the little boy she put the one of daisies in her hair and spun around with her arms outstretched. He was laughing with her from the other side – his cheeks red, and his shoulders quaking with a mirth she could not hear. From her skirts she produced the other crown: a circlet full of every blue flower she could find, and left it among her paintings. In a gesture of gratitude, that day he left his hat. He kissed his fingers to his lips and pressed them up against the glass, then with a slightly sad smile, he glanced over his shoulder and turned away to leave.
Confused by his expression of sorrow, the little girls hands flew up to the glass, knocking against it loudly. She pressed herself as close as she possibly could to the invisible barrier, knocking aside some of the paintings she had left for her friend in urgency. Again, she slammed her palms down hoping he would turn, that he would come back and give her the smile that made his eyes an even prettier color than the blue outside her jar.
He never did.
The little girl cried. It was the first time she had ever experienced the sensation, and she was surprised at the wetness that decorated her cheeks. But she continued to weep. The little girl continue to sob and sob and sob until she fell asleep against the winding tree with its single leaf, her little crown of daisies drooping in her hair.
He did not come back. The little boy was not there when she woke up, and he was not there the next day either. Weeks passed and still her friend did not come back. Day after day after day, the little girl sat with a painting in her lap. It was the last painting she had planned on giving the little boy. Day after day after day the little girl waited for him to come back with a smile on his face and a new present in his pocket. He never did.
As time went on, and the little girl grew up, she lost faith in the little boy who had made her so happy. Slowly, all the flowers in her jar died; the grass began to brown, and her tree lost its one leaf. Eventually she stopped crying herself to sleep, because eventually the tears stopped coming. Every time she awoke she would spend her time staring at the blue. Her blue never changed. It stayed the perfect blue that his eyes had been, sometimes a fluffy white would mar the unbrokenness, but those times were few and far between. Despite everything, she continued to stare at the blue, and hug her picture close to her chest, a crown of dried daisies at home in her hair.
So, there she sat with her knees curled up, and the painting resting gently in her lap. She stared blankly at the dead grass before her, wishing she could return to a time when it had been green and grew honey-sweet flowers. She missed the life that used to be in her little jar; she missed being a little girl in a flowering jar, instead of this grown up girl in a dead jar. And as she sat lamenting over things lost, she never noticed the figure approaching from the outside.
She was startled by a quiet knock against the glass. Standing up quickly, painting still clutched tightly to her chest, she whirled around to face the side where long ago her little boy once stood – a small part of her heart hoping that he had finally come back to her.
Her face fell and her heart sank at the sight that greeted her. It was not her little boy. Instead, standing at the side of her jar, was a woman.
She was tall, with a severe chin and blonde hair that fell past her shoulders in a neatly tamed braid; a thick black coat decorated her frame and hung down by her ankles. She was blushing shyly.
She blinked in confusion. What was she doing here? Who was she? She inched slowly closer to the stranger, those two questions vying for the most of her attention. It was not until her nose was almost to the glass that she realized.
Her eyes. The stranger's eyes were the same color blue as outside her jar, the same color as her little boy's.
She cried out in sheer joy, and pressed the palm of her left hand up against the glass. The woman's smile bloomed before her eyes, happy to be recognized, and quickly she placed her hand up to her side of the glass.
It had been years since the little girl had cried, but she was crying now. The tears flowed from her eyes, and dripped off her chin, but she could not hold them back. All she could do was rest her forehead to the smooth surface and let the tears come.
A small tap on the glass brought her attention back to her little boy. She grinned gently through the barrier and pretended to wipe her tears away, brushing the glass gingerly with her fingertips, and shook her head. The little girl wiped her eyes and smiled, finally happy for the first time in a long while. Silently, her little boy brought her other hand up to her lips and touched the glass in front of hers. The little girl laughed and kissed the cool wall where the fingers were resting.
If possible the woman's smile grew even wider. Missed you.
The hand that was not still holding the bark painting pressed on the glass between them harder. Me too.
She was unaware how long they stayed that way, palms together, foreheads resting against the confines of the jar. All she knew was that she could stay like this for the rest of her life. She pulled from the glass to look at her again, to see those blue, blue eyes. The woman was already staring at her, motioning with one hand toward herself. Come out.
The little girl cast her eyes to the top of her home where the lid kept her trapped. She turned back and shook her head. Cannot.
Blue, blue eyes followed the previous path of her own, and took notice of the lid for the first time. The woman frowned. She was no longer touching the glass, but backing away, eyes still on the top of her jar. Suddenly, she ran forward and leapt up, hands scrabbling for a hold on the curve of the glass, so she could pull herself up…and begin untwisting the cap.
Little by little the lid was lifted from its grip on the body of the jar. The little girl cried out again in surprise as the lid of the jar tumbled to the side, clanging loudly enough for her to cover her ears.
And there she was, perched at the top of her little tree. The coat had been lost during her jump, and her previously neat braid had taken on a shade of its old messiness. The woman held out her hand.
Without a second thought the little girl readjusted her grip on the painting she still held securely to her front, and reached out for the hand, grasping it tightly and allowing herself to be pulled up and out of the jar for the first time.
The two of them went tumbling over the lip of the jar and to the ground outside, laughing, and together.
As their jubilation died down she began to notice her surroundings. The world outside her jar was not unlike what it had been inside. Her free hand let go of the woman's collar and entwined itself with the vibrant green grass beneath them. It had been a long time since she had seen healthy grass grow. She breathed the air next, and felt the temperature. It was cool and crisp and burned her lungs – completely opposite to the perpetual summer her jar had provided.
Grinning from ear to ear she scrambled to her feet and ran, her arms spread wide and laughter filling the new air around her. She caught the woman looking at her, standing a few feet away smiling at her joy. She ran back, stumbling a bit on the unfamiliar surface, but reaching the woman all the same. She touched her next.
Her hand felt the coarse fabric of her shirt, the smoothness of her skin, and the angles of her chin, and the coarseness of her palms. She tugged at the end of the braid, and unwound it, feeling the softness and taking in the new sensations. She smiled up again, took a step back, and held out her painting.
It had taken her a while to complete. She had wanted to get the blue just right. It was not the perfect shade, but it was near enough. On the piece of bark was a picture of a little boy and a little girl holding hands and walking away from a jar. A jar where the little girl had spent her entire life, and the little boy had rescued her from.
Silently, her little boy took her hand and her painting, and though neither of them were very little anymore, the woman glanced over her shoulder at the little jar with its little tree and its browning leaf, and this time they both ran away.
Neither of them came back.