Home > Fragile(14)

Author: M. Leighton

Hardy smiled. For some reason he liked the sound of that. It made it seem like they had a future together and that prospect made him extremely happy.

Silence stretched between them and, although Hardy could’ve sat staring at Miracle for days, he thought it probably best that he leave.

“Well,” he said, standing, “if it’s all right, I’ll take that with me and see about getting it fixed on Monday.”

“You really don’t have to do that.”

“I know, but I want to.”

“No, really, I’d feel terrible.”

“Please. It’s the least I can do.”

“No, I—”

“It will make me feel better. Really. Please?”

At that, Miracle searched his eyes and then sighed. “All right, but I’m paying for it. Just let me know how much it is before you give them the go-ahead.” She added the last quickly, leaving Hardy in no doubt that she really didn’t have the money to have it fixed, which made him feel even worse.

“Fine,” he said, having no intention of doing any such thing. He found that he truly wanted to do this for her. As a gift. “And seriously, you can use one of mine until it’s fixed.”

Hardy slowly made his way toward the door, reluctant to leave her, but knowing he had to.

“Thank you. I really appreciate that, but I can wait. There’ll be other pretty days at the park.”

Hardy stopped and turned back to Miracle, who was following close behind him.

“Did you have plans to use it this weekend?”

Miracle shrugged, trying to seem nonchalant about her ruined schedule. “It’s no big deal. Like I said, there will be plenty of other opportunities.”

A mental image of her with the red balloon flitted through Hardy’s mind. There were obviously things she really wanted to do and he suspected that many of them had emotional motivations. He couldn’t help but wonder if she’d gotten to release a balloon like she’d wanted to do.

“I don’t have any plans tomorrow. How ‘bout I meet you there? I’ll bring both cameras so I can get some shots in, too. I’ll get a leg up on my homework.”

Miracle’s smile widened and her eyes sparkled with pleasure and interest. At least Hardy hoped that’s what it was—interest. In him.



“Okay. Tomorrow then?”

“Tomorrow. What time?”

“Eight? Is that too early?”

She was so considerate, Hardy had to grin. “No. Eight is fine.”

Hardy left in high spirits. He thought of Miracle all the way home. Never in his life had wanted to kiss a girl so badly.


Hardy would never admit it, but he’d awakened at 6:07. Despite his inability to go to sleep for thinking of Miracle, he was still up early, practically vibrating with excitement. He relished the idea of getting to spend the whole day with her, even if it was in a public place taking pictures.

Time seemed to creep by, so Hardy made a quick trip to the store and was already at the park by 7:30, thinking he’d just wait on her. Only he didn’t have to wait. She was already there.

They’d neglected to establish a place to meet, so Hardy thought he’d walk to the bench on which he’d first seen Miracle. Typically, he wasn’t a very sentimental person, but that day, that first moment he’d seen her, was indelibly etched into his memory.

When he topped the small hill that led down to the bench under the tree, Hardy stopped in his tracks. There, sitting in a single shaft of early morning sunlight, was Miracle.

She was alone. The park was still quiet and empty around her. As usual, she was wearing a peaceful yet hauntingly sad smile as she watched something closely. Hardy followed her gaze and saw two squirrels cavorting at the bottom of a tree. Round and round they went, chasing each other in a spiral pattern first up the trunk and then back down to romp and play around the roots. While they were cute and entertaining, Hardy didn’t find them nearly as fascinating as the girl who watched them.

Squatting, careful to make no noise that might alert her to his presence, Hardy knelt to take his camera from the bag, leaving the case and the other camera lying at his feet.

He took pictures of Miracle smiling as the two squirrels frolicked in the dewy grass. He took pictures of her closing her eyes and tilting her face to the sun. He took pictures of her staring off into space, as if deep in thought. And he took pictures of her bowing her head, as if those thoughts were too troubling to face.

Hardy watched her for nearly an hour before he realized he was technically late for their meeting. Stowing his camera back in its case, he untied his gift from the strap of the second case and stood to make his way to where Miracle still sat.

She must’ve heard his footsteps when he got closer. Miracle’s head jerked toward him and she smiled brightly. Almost too brightly.

Hardy knew the instant she made note of what he was carrying. He watched her smile fade and her chin begin to tremble. When he stopped in front of her, he saw the tears shimmering in her beautiful green eyes.

“What’s that?” she asked, a slight tremor in her voice.

“It’s a gift. For you,” Hardy said, offering her the ribbon attached to the bright red balloon he towed.

Miracle reached forward and took the balloon, tears spilling down her cheeks. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Hardy was at a loss. He’d thought it would make her happy, not make her cry. Fidgeting with the straps of the two camera bags, he confessed, “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Miracle shook her head, visibly struggling to get a grasp on her emotions. “No, you didn’t. It’s just…it’s so…I’m just happy. That’s all. It’s very nice of you.”

Not knowing what else to do, Hardy moved to sit beside her on the bench. Miracle stared up at the balloon for the longest time before she spoke again.

Sliding her eyes to Hardy, she concluded, “You remember me.”

Holding her gaze, Hardy nodded.

Miracle looked back up at the balloon.

“I had kidney cancer. Oncocytoma. They removed my left kidney and were pretty sure that got it all, but I still had to have chemotherapy and some radiation. I was so sick during my treatments I didn’t feel like using my camera. I’d see all these amazing things I wanted to take pictures of, but I never seemed to feel like it. I promised myself that if I lived through the last treatment, I’d bring a red balloon to the park and get a picture of it drifting off into the sky. When I was so sick I could barely hold my head up, I could close my eyes and picture that scene. I think in my head, it was almost like watching my cancer disappear.”

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