by Ann Stolinsky
My eyes suddenly open wide. I bolt to sit upright, throwing my blanket to the side.
My pajamas are soaked from cold sweat. I rub my hands together, and up and down both arms, shivering. Goosebumps abound on my damp flesh.
The feelings evoked within my dream cling to my waking consciousness.
I “woke” lying on my back, on a bed of green pine needles. I slowly sat up and looked around, unsure of where I was, or what I was doing there. In the dim light, I could see a shape just a few yards ahead. Standing, I brushed the needles off my clothing, and, barefoot, shuffled toward it. I gasped as I reached it, my hands flying unbidden to cover my open mouth. It was a sign, located in what appeared to be a remote location of a dense forest. In large black letters on a wooden rectangular board, it read “Lost Children.” The names on the bottom were the names my husband and I gave to the children we conceived but didn’t have the opportunity to raise.
A boy comes forward from behind the sign. “I’m David.”
David. My first pregnancy and delivery, a stillborn who we named David, lost to us before he took his first breath. We buried David in the family plot. My husband and I cried for months, a deep sorrow engulfing us both. But here he is, now seven years old, a brown-haired blue-eyed active child. He reminds me so much of his father. David takes my hand, leading me down the path, to his two siblings.
Tears fall, tears I had almost forgotten how to create. Our losses, three children, threatened to tear our marriage apart, but we survived. “We fell in love, just the two of us. We’re still us,” my husband tells me when melancholy strikes me like lightning.
David releases my hand, running in front of me. The sky lightens, the flaming reds and oranges of a fiery sunrise. The beauty hits my senses as I stop, standing still, forgetting for a second why I’m there, who I’m to meet. David grabs my hand again, and the moment of awe is lost. As are my children.
A shorter boy peeks out from behind a tree. There’s no doubt he’s David’s brother. They have the same face, except for my freckles. David doesn’t have them. We named him Michael, Michael who didn’t live to be born, Michael who died inside of me during the last trimester. Michael, whose death doubled the sorrow and pain we felt at David’s delivery. Michael, my second son to die.
Michael is holding a little girl’s hand. She’s three years old, my Diane. She has my red hair and my freckles. She’s shy. Clutching a teddy bear, she ambles toward me. She holds the bear tightly as I kneel to say hello. Her smile is the catalyst for the last torrent of tears. She hands the bear to me.
We’re back at the sign now, my children and me. I bend and hug them all together. David kisses my cheek, Michael my other cheek. Diane kisses my nose. I smile, and say goodbye.
My husband wakes from my movement. He sees me rubbing my arms, and takes over the job. He hugs me, and tells me he loves me. I look at his face, the same one he shares with my children. I smile. An image flashes across my mind. The sign. It no longer says, “Lost Children.” Now it says, “Loved Children.”
Ann Stolinsky is a Pennsylvania-based word and game expert. She is the founder and owner of Gontza Games, an independent board and card game company. Three of her games are currently in the marketplace: “MINDFIELD, The Game of United States Military Trivia”; “Pass the Grogger!”; and “Christmas Cards.” Her website is www.gontzagames.com. She is also a partner in Gemini Wordsmiths, a full-service copyediting and content creating company. Visit www.geminiwordsmiths.com for more information and testimonials.
Ann was an Assistant Editor at Red Sun Magazine, www.redsunmagazine.com. Her most recent publishing credit is a short story in Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 1 with Running Wild Press. A poem was published in the Fall 2015 issue of Space & Time Magazine. She is a graduate of the Bram Stoker award-winning author Jonathan Maberry’s short story writing class. Ann is a member of the Writers Coffeehouse, and the writing critique group located at Open Book Bookstore in Elkins Park, PA.
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'Wait For Me'
'The Seeing Kind'