Exceedingly disappointed at her lack of progress, she dragged her fatigued body out of the gym and draped it on a park bench near a crowded playground. Her shoulders sagged. She made a weak attempt to sit upright. It didn’t work.
Someone watched Sylvia from the playground. Clumsily dismounting the see-saw, the figure walked in her direction. Sylvia didn’t notice because she was reapplying her lipstick in the coral pink compact Michelle had gotten her for Christmas. Abruptly realizing the identity of the gift-giver, she regarded it with more than faint distaste and dropped it back into her purse. Of course it was also the purse which Loraine and Charlotte had originally bought for Michelle who, as soon as she had gotten her hands on a newer model, passed it down to Sylvia. She heaved a sigh.
“Why are you crying?” The voice belonged to a little girl. Sylvia couldn’t believe her ears. She took a moment to look at the child. She was wearing a pink summer dress, holding a stuffed unicorn by one of its hind legs.
“A little child like you wouldn’t understand,” said Sylvia, and she immediately became self-conscious. She cleared her throat and shifted her perch on the park bench.
“Oh.” The child looked down at her unicorn and took a moment to smooth its purple mane. When it was coiffed to her standards, she regarded it fondly. “Mommy used to cry all the time. Now Daddy says that she is sick. I cried a lot too when he told me.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” The child smiled in response.
“You should smile more. Mommy always tells me to smile more. She says that frowning gives you wrinkles.”
Sylvia looked appalled for a moment, and then she laughed. “She certainly is correct.”
“What do you mean?” A puzzled expression crossed the child’s face.
“Oh, never mind.”
The girl took Sylvia’s hand. “A pretty lady like you should smile more. My mommy doesn’t smile very much when we visit her. But I can tell that she tries. It makes me smile too.” She curtsied and Sylvia watched her as she skipped back to the playground.
For the first time in months, Sylvia smiled.