‘Wishful Thinking’ – A Short Story
Every day she tried.
The fountain was old. Very old. In fact, her grandmother had told of the times she had come here as a child herself. It was not your average fountain, not in design and not in beauty. This one was an awesome sight to behold. Made entirely of marble, the base of this behemoth was square, lipped at the top with an intricate series of carvings below, along the sides. She had been coming here every day for the last 431 days and was yet to memorise it. There was just too much to take in, something new to see each time. The water in this square always seemed so pure. It was brilliantly clear, yet tinged with a dazzling azure that set off the pale ashen hue of the marble. And in the water one could see all the coins that had been thrown in, one for each wish made by someone somewhere in the world.
In the centre of this large square was a second tier, this one circular. Out of the cylindrical structure, hands reached out, almost inviting the viewer in. Some held their palms up, letting the water trickle between their fingers. Others held their cupped hands tilted, allowing the water to slide from their palms into the pool below. These were secretly her favourite part of the whole fountain. The arms, hands, fingers, were sculpted with such detail, such delicacy that they seemed almost real. As she was once again admiring them, a small child on the opposite corner of the fountain was reaching for one. He held a coin in his hand. She knew what he was trying to do, but his arms weren’t long enough. A man behind him took him in his outstretched arms and held him up. She smiled as she watched the child place the coin into the upturned palm of an imploring marble hand. She had lost count of the number of people who did this, but she never failed to smile at the spectacle.
She turned her attention now to the statue crowning the fountain. This was what brought the crowds: they came for him, and came back for the fountain as a whole. The man atop the structure, looking proudly, protectively, down on the people, was a soldier. When her grandmother had visited, the soldier had been different: he had been dressed in the uniform of the First World War. Her statue was dressed differently. That was the one thing that had changed. The fountain had always been a tribute to the soldiers of war, but as the warriors had changed, so had the hero that stood strong and powerful at the top. Her hero looked as though he had just come home from Afghanistan; the helmet sat back on his head; the boots tight to his feet; the gun cradled in his arms, ready to defend those in need. His eyes seemed almost to shine with a gaze that told you it would be okay, his smile said he was home and happy, yet he never lost the pride of the armed forces. He seemed relieved to be off the battlefield, but did not forget that he was the protector, defender of his country.
She had brought a one pound coin with her every day. Today was the 432nd coin she would toss into the water. One friend had told her it was stupid. She shouldn’t put that amount of money to such a hopeless cause as wishful thinking. She had almost slapped that friend, but instead explained why she did: the money was unimportant to her, it was the gesture that gave her hope. Each day a veteran of the war would come and collect each coin, place them in a bucket, and leave. The next day he would return first thing in the morning and make a public announcement: “yesterday we raised X amount for Help the Heroes”. Each penny went to them, and the people of the town, even the thugs and ruffians, respected the cause enough to leave every piece of it in the water. Today would bring her donation total to £432, but it was the gesture of throwing the coin into the water, or placing it in the upturned hand, as she made her wish that gave her hope that it would come true.
She looked into the eyes of the soldier above her, smiled, and threw the coin. As it danced in the air, the sun glinted off and momentarily blinded her. She was still staring at the statue when she realised something: she had heard no splash. The statue seemed to smirk at her, like he knew something she didn’t. She looked down. An outstretched fist was held in the air before her. The arm was clad in thick camouflage material. The fist turned, unclenched, and there in the open palm was her coin, the arm in startling resemblance to those of the fountain. Her eyes travelled up the arm, but instead of marble, she found flesh. She found a face. She found the face. The face she had prayed for: the face of her husband. He was wearing his uniform, complete with helmet tipped back on his head, and boots tight to his feet. His eyes seemed almost to shine with a gaze that told you it would be okay, his smile said he was home and happy, yet he never lost the pride of the armed forces.
He took a pound coin from his pocket and added it to the one in his palm. He then held his hand above the water and dropped them both in.
“That makes 433, right?”
She nodded, gobsmacked. Her eyes clouded up. Her wish had come true. He was alive. He was safe. He was home. The grin that spread across his face at her reaction brought her back to reality. They embraced, she cried, he cried. She couldn’t wait to shove this in her friend’s face: sometimes wishful thinking is worth it. Her eyes were drawn to those of the soldier atop the fountain and in her mind she thanked him for bringing her husband home. He had protected her until her man had returned to her. She could finally go home with her very own hero. And as she left, the marble soldier appeared pleased, and he turned his attention to the next person who needed him.
This post comes courtesy of today’s Daily Prompt.
All the best to the military, great respect for our people out there. Unfortunately this fountain is merely a figment of my imagination, but let’s pretend this link is our very own Help for Heroes fountain.
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