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Sometimes I wondered how the sun rose and fell. It seemed like magic, as if every morning it just floated clear into the sky, and in the evening sunk right into the mountains that crowned the horizon. Often, I survived only by remembering the sun. It was my only happiness.
That’s why I hated winter. Winter only brought cold, burying snow, illness and darkness. For weeks at a time, we might have no sun at all. But it always came back, breaking through the clouds like a smile.
But until then, we kept lanterns and fires burning all through the night and day, to keep away the shadows and fear. In those times, many guests arrived, so I was kept busy cleaning and cooking for the inn.
To keep ourselves busy those long winter nights, the other girls and I told stories about Miracles. It was everybody’s wish to be given a miracle, but I was sure I was the one who needed it most. Everybody knew that a miracle came in the form of a yellow mouse. Of course, nobody knew why it was yellow, except for the fact that one does not often see yellow mice, but I secretly thought it was because yellow is the happiest color. It would be pale yellow, the color of the sky around the sun as it rises into the sky in the early morning.
This story begins on the coldest, longest day of the year. It began like any other; the early morning bell, a hurried breakfast, and a long list of tasks for each girl. Those mornings my breath swirled as steam in front of me and my hands were stiff and numb, even though we were indoors. I was sweeping the front hall, and I only paused from my work when I heard a low sobbing from the yard.
I tucked my hands inside my sleeves and opened the door. A boy was sprawled in the frozen grass. He was pale, and his lips were blue, and blood spilled out from beneath a scarlet bandage around his side. Already the grass around him was wet.
“Madam Crockette!” I screamed. “Madam!” Madam came running. When she saw the boy, she turned a sickening green and sat down on the porch step. As she called for the stable hand, she passed her handkerchief across her face.
The stable hand carried the wounded boy up to the warmest room. I was told to clean his wound, re-bandage it, and give him medicine.
After that, I was his nurse. I hurried through my daily tasks, then took refuge in his bedroom. For a spell, the weather was warmer, and those days the boy was healthier. He could sit up a little, and sometimes he told me stories. At first, he was rambling, but I told him to keep talking. They were wonderful stories; of golden light, blue skies, and all kinds of warm foods-- some of which, I hadn’t even heard of. Often these tales didn’t make much sense; they were just a string of words; but they were warm, filled words, and I cherished those few hours I spent with him every day.
His name was Toby. As I changed his bandage he was quiet, but I could tell from his face that it hurt. Sometimes I told him about the inn, but there wasn’t much to speak of.
But the warm weather didn’t last. One day the morning was colder than ever, and when I hurried up to light a fire in his room his finger tips were like ice.
“Lord, you have icicles hanging from your nose,” I said as cheerfully as I could. I could tell he was much worse. His eyes were closed, and the lids were so thin that I could see the white underneath.
“I hurt… all over,” Toby groaned. I rubbed his shoulder.
“You’re going to be fine. Just try and sleep. Or tell a story,” I added, knowing that only a story could distract us.
“All right.” Toby began a tale. It was more jumbled than ever, and he paused often, and once he was still so long that I thought he had dropped off to sleep.
I curled into a ball at the foot of his bed, my elbows resting on the chilly window sill. I gazed out the window. The air was foggy, but a shape moved behind the glass.
‘Wait,” I said. “There’s something out there.” I covered Toby in the blanket and opened the window a crack. In hopped a yellow mouse.
It was just as I had imagined. Its fur was the palest of yellows, and its paws and nose were so delicate! Its eyes were beady and bright and intelligent.
“What is it?” asked Toby.
“It’s a Miracle,” I whispered.
That evening I didn’t tell anybody about the Miracle. I went to bed early, and in the dim solitude of the dormitory I placed the jar on my bed and watched the mouse curled up inside. Its eyes followed mine.
A Miracle. More than I could ever hope for. I thought of how much a miracle could bring me. A warm bed, food, but above all-- happiness.
And then I remembered Toby’s pale, sick face, and I felt a wrench in my stomach. Toby needed the Miracle more than I, I realized at once. He was sick.
The next day I brought the Miracle up to Toby.
“It’s a Miracle,” I whispered, still in awe. “I can not believe that we have been given a Miracle.”
“How do you know… that it’s a Miracle?” mumbled Toby.
“Because it’s yellow. Everybody knows that Miracles are yellow mice,” I replied. I just knew. Maybe by the pale yellow light radiating from its body. Maybe by how its intelligent eyes followed mine.
“Anyway, it’s yours.” I pushed the jar holding the Miracle onto the bed. “You deserve it. You have to get better, Toby. A Miracle is just what you need. You have to take it!” Pain flitted across Toby’s face.
“I’m dying, Liana,” he whispered. “I don’t think it was help.”
“You can’t die!” I yelled. “Take the Miracle!”
“Alright,” murmured Toby. He lifted his thin, trembling hand and laid it on mine. I clasped it firmly.
“Yes,” said Toby weakly. I wasn’t sure how to accept the Miracle but just as our hands touched the jar got very hot and flew apart in a million shards. The mouse locked eyes with both of use before fading away. After a while, I hesitantly felt in the place the mouse had been a moment before. I picked up one of the shards of glass but dropped it again quickly. It burned my hand.
Then I looked at Toby. He looked the same. Disappointment filled my heart. But what had I been expecting? It was only a mouse.
I dragged my feet when I visited Toby the next morning. I paused before knocking on his door. I didn’t know what to expect.
When I opened the door, I didn’t look at Toby. I sat down next to him slowly.
“Liana! Look at me, Liana! I’m better,” sang out Toby. He put his hand on my cheek. It was soft and warm. I finally raised my eyes to him. His cheeks were rosy, his eyes bright, and his skin smooth and soft.
“I’m better,” he said again.
“I know, Toby,” I said. I hugged him. “I’m so happy for you.”
“Then why are you crying?” He touched a tear running down my cheek. I turned away. I should be happy for him. I was happy for him. But then why did I feel this cold, bad feeling in my stomach? It was sadness, because I knew that now he was healthy he would start home. And it was jealousy. That he would be going home, and I would be staying here cleaning and cooking for the rest of my life. That he got the Miracle.
“I want to come with you,” I told Toby.
“But you will. You think I want to leave you here?” He laughed and hugged me.
And so Toby and I set off into the world. We walked towards the sun. The sun, with its happy, yellow, shining rays. I still didn’t know how or why it rose and fell every day. It was like a miracle.
Writing these words now, I’m not sure when or how I found my happiness. Maybe it was the wedding. Maybe it was the baby. Maybe it was the many years later on, all for Toby and me to spend together. Or maybe it was exactly that moment, walking into the sun hand in hand with Toby. Toby—alive, healthy, and happy.