Write of passage – Challenge One – Character
She looked around the room with quick, flitting glances. It was clear she was uneasy. Eight near strangers brought together by one common link. She couldn’t remember if she had met one of the other couples. Should she ask their names? What if they had, in fact, already met? So she simply smiled and hoped someone else would ease the tension.
The two children watched the guitar and bongo players, perched on stools behind the near-empty tip jar. The sitter had found a better offer, so the two children were added to the group at the last moment.
As the couples waited for the guest of honor to arrive, their reason for being brought together, she nervously shifted her weight from one foot to the other. A drink would help. At the least, it would be something to do with her hands.
When everyone was finally seated around the long table, she ended up sitting next to the young boy, who was already out past his bedtime. She leaned over to ask him a question. He stared at her and leaned away. She gently asked him another question, quietly, so as not to frighten him.
He turned his head ever so slightly toward her. She had no way of knowing that not only was he a shy boy, but he didn’t talk to strangers. He only recently started talking to his family. His height often fooled people into thinking he was much older than his true age. Most people would keep asking questions of the boy and then question his mother as to why he didn’t talk.
But this kind soul, gently, gradually, gave him time and space. She let him warm up to her. She let him observe her. And in less than an hour’s time, he was talking to her. She gave him space of his own and he thanked her by answering her questions.
His mother had watched the whole time, at first tense, then smiling. So touched that a complete stranger understood what he needed. When the boy reached up putting his fingers on the woman’s cheek, the mother’s eyes welled up with tears. This quiet stranger, with a gentle voice, had done in an hour what most people failed to do. She had touched his soul.