A woman behind the counter was on the phone, but had noticed Miranda and now pointed to a sign on the wall that said Donations.
Miranda smiled her thanks and walked over to a large box. Except for candy wrappers, cigarette butts, and dust balls, the box was empty. She gently placed the bags inside, and offered a tentative smile to two sullen teens who slouched on a nearby bench.
The older boy pushed himself up, and began rummaging through the bags. As Miranda walked away, she heard him snort in amusement.
“Badminton?” he asked in disbelief. Then he and the other boy burst out laughing.
Mirada hurried down the steps and went straight to her car. As she drove off, she defended her intentions. She had only given items that were still in good shape; not rejects. And the badminton set was full of good memories from when the kids were young. She told herself that she was being overly sensitive. These were angry teenagers, runaways, perhaps abandoned, or even abused.
As she waited for the light to change, she briefly imagined the pierced and tattooed teens leaping in a lighthearted game of badminton – and had to laugh. What had she been thinking? Try as she might, she still did everything with her kids in mind, assuming that what they had liked, these other teens would, as well.
Clara and Michael had moved on, but she had not. There she was, cleaning their rooms, cooking and shopping for four, doing everything as if they might walk in the front door and ask what was for dinner.
Miranda spent the rest of the afternoon working in her garden, raking out the dead underbrush and carrying it down to the compost pile. She saw that the daylight was beginning to fade, and she felt unexpectedly overcome with weariness. A few drops of rain began to fall, making a muted patter as it landed on the leaves.
She walked over to the old swing and sat down on it, rocking back and forth, her hand playing with the faded satin bow that she had tied there for Clara so many years ago. When the knot holding the bow suddenly split apart, Miranda gave a little gasp and felt a fresh sense of loss. She let the soft rain and the darkening light make a kind of curtain around her. She sat in the swing until it was nearly dark, holding the bit of blue ribbon in her hand.
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