The first time a child had run to greet Heather, just after leaving the hospital for the first time, Edward had cringed, and began to warn him off; her parents, seeing his reaction and knowing Heather’s condition, tried to call him back. But Heather had greeted her former student with open arms, pulling him in for a hug. As they watched Heather talk with Mark, they saw her smile.
It didn’t take long for word to spread. Now, when one of Heather’s students saw her on the street, their parents sent them to say hello. Frequently, they had a gift for her – a drawing, a flower, some trinket they had made. And always a hug. There were occasional instances of a child being less than cautious in their affection and hitting a sore spot, but Heather forgave them instantly, just as she had Elly when Elly had come to visit. Or, as she’d told Edward, told her she’d forgiven her. Elly had done nothing wrong, nothing that needed forgiveness, but she wouldn’t understand that until she was older, so she had accepted the apology with a smile and a hug.
These days, it took them longer to get anywhere. But Edward didn’t mind; Heather would arrive at their destination with a smile on her face. And if she was feeling really bad, he’d take her for a st(roll) through the park; it was better than any medicine they had in the pharmacy. He remembered fondly the day they’d talked her into joining them on the swings. He’d done the pushing, but Heather’s childish cries of ‘Higher! Higher!’ had left him smiling all day.
Heather knew exactly what everyone was doing, but it didn’t make it any less effective. She needed the reminder of hope for the future, of the kindness that still existed. And children were its most potent carriers. They let her know that their child would be born into a world where cruelty was the exception, not the norm, despite her experiences.