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The small girl of about five is running. Her eyes are shining, her hair is lopsided. Her high voice rises in a laugh as she runs across the grass laden with summer. The girl takes no notice of the woman in the straw hat watching her from the steps of the large house. Although it is early morning, the sun beats down through the clear cloudless sky. The small girl hears the sweet sound of water and follows the source. When she comes to a bridge, she squeals in delight. It is long and arched, surrounded by trees and flowers and colors. She reaches toward the water but is pulled back by the woman who has come so fast from those faraway steps.

The girl of about ten is racing her friend. She can feel the wind in her flyaway hair and the sun on her joyful face. Her legs move so fast beneath her and she knows she will win. When she reaches the weeping willow tree, she continues on until she reaches the middle of the bridge. She waits, catching her breath, until her friend collapses next to her, laughing. They watch the water and enjoy the shade from the mid-day sun, brighter than ever in the middle of the sky. As always, the bridge is beautiful. The flowers are bright and the grass around it is tall. Every day of the summer, the girl visits her bridge and she stands in the middle, never crossing to the other side. Every day she sits before returning home to the steps where the woman in the straw hat sits, reading her book.

The smiling girl of about fifteen is walking with the tall boy. They are walking, hey are laughing, they are holding hands. The girl’s eyes and bright and her hair, although it has been styled, is starting to come loose. They reach the bridge and stand together in the m middle. The girl stands a little bit towards the end of the bridge she was never gone, the boy on her other side. They are talking, but not as much as before, because it is enough to just enjoy each other’s company. The water is breathtaking in the late afternoon light. The colors are there and the trees are there, but everything is toned down a little bit. The girl and the boy stay on the bridge together until the shadows of early evening indicate that it is time to go. So they walk back to the girl’s home, where the woman with the straw hat will be inside, cooking dinner.

The lonely girl is walking. She is walking so slowly that the distance between home and her destination seems as long as it did when she was a little girl. Her hair is as wild as ever. When she reaches the bridge, she walks almost to the end. She holds a pebble in her trembling hands which she has been holding all day long, since it came from the water. She has come here, as always, because she loves this place, but today she has come here to soothe her overwhelming thoughts, to slow down and be alone in peace. The subtle beauty of the water seems to understand. It is dark, well into the night, and the girl listens to the sweet sound of the water moving. She allows silent tears to slip from her eyes as she drops the pebble. It lands with a small splash, and she watches the ripples until they are no more. And when at long last the stars begin to fade, she turns to the end where she never goes. She knows that when she returns home, the woman will have taken off her hat and laid down in bed. What she does not know is that the woman will have waited up for her. With a sigh, the girl finally walks off the end of the bridge onto the long, cool grass.

Because bridges, like everything else, have a beginning, a middle, and an end.





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