The ruined old house peeked out from the overgrown weed, bramble, and underbrush of the deep forest. Surrounded by tall evergreens that reached the sky and whose boughs and needles blotted out the sun, few people knew of its existence. The roof collapsed long ago, and a deep green moss clung to the crumbling stone walls. Winding plants twined around the shaky chimney that teetered like a decrepit old man lording over the remnants of memories and rubble.
A spark of remembrance twinkled in Great-Grandma Hattie’s beady eyes, now sunken by the deep crags of old age, when Amy asked her about the old house.
The old woman’s eyes filled with tears and her papery voice cracked, “I know that house. It belonged to Mary, my best friend. We were children when it happened.”
“When what happened?” Amy asked, but Great-Grandma’s mind was already on the cloudy journey to the edge of oblivion.
“She had a doll,” Hattie’s hollow voice escaped her lips, and Amy sat, listening, “it was a beautiful doll with a ceramic head and glass eyes. It wore a pink checkered pinafore, and we used to dress its long curls in pink ribbons. Such a beautiful doll.”
A tear rolled down Great-Grandma Hattie’s eye, and she fell silent.
“Granny?” Amy whispered, but the old woman only stared into the long-ago.
“They came one dreary night,” the words seemed to choke the old woman, but she continued, “It was cold and gray and snow swirled around us like butterflies. The sky rumbled and lighting flashed, but not even the raging storm stopped the men who rammed the door and dragged the family out of their house. The wind howled and howled, but we never saw them again. Then, they drafted my brother into the war, and we never saw him again.”
Tears spilled from the old woman’s eyes and her shoulders shook in wheezing sobs. Amy embraced her wilted old body and said nothing.
“They weren’t spies,” Great-Grandma Hattie wailed, “they were just people. Good people!”
“Granny,” Amy ventured when the old woman’s sobs quieted, “is this Mary’s?”
Great-Grandma Hattie’s face broke into a beaming smile when Amy produced an old doll from her backpack. It had a checkered pinafore and pink ribbons tied around shining ringlets.
“Where?” The old woman whispered.
“I found it in the ruined house,” Amy replied.
The old woman took the doll and cradled it in her arms, “did you fix it? It smells like Mary, but it looks brand new.”
Amy shook her head, “I did nothing to it.”