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[Early in the morning, in a park. They are near a playground and a bench. Abby and Shawn are walking towards the playground hand in hand. It is warm and sunny outside.]
Abby: Shawn, what are we doing here? I didn’t surprise you this morning to come to a playground. I only have today. I have to be back in New York tomorrow.
Shawn: I’m sorry, Abby. I told you I have an unbreakable appointment. We can go wherever you want in exactly two hours and three minutes.
Abby: What appointment can you have that you can’t skip just once because your fiancée who lives across the country showed up for only one day? (Shawn laughs but is getting a little annoyed)
Shawn: An important one. Why don’t you go back to my apartment and get some breakfast? We can meet soon, and then we’ll have the whole day together.
Abby: Are you trying to get rid of me, Shawn Wilson? Honestly, I thought you’d be happy to see me. Do you not realize that once I leave we won’t see each other for three months! (Shawn turns and puts his arms on Abby’s shoulders.)
Shawn: I’m not trying to get rid of you, love, and I am thrilled beyond words to see you. I’ve missed you so much I’ve debated leaving Washington, but this is an appointment I simply can’t miss. I promise it will only take a few hours, and then we will have the rest of the day. You can spare me for that long, can’t you?
Abby: Why are we here then, if you have an appointment?
Shawn: Because this is where we meet.
Abby: (looking around skeptically) At a playground?
Shawn: She likes them.
Abby: (very annoyed and slightly angry) She! You’re putting me off for some girl and a playground? I want you to come with me right now! That girl will understand perfectly if you explain your fiancée who is leaving for France for three months is here and can only stay today, and if she doesn’t understand then there is something wrong or she is infatuated with you, in which case I’m sure you shouldn’t be seeing her!
Shawn: (stopping and turning to place his hands on Abby’s shoulders) Abby, listen carefully please. I know you are stressed because you are leaving. I cannot and will not miss this appointment. Saffy is not going to understand, and I’m not going to do that to her. Go back to the apartment and get some breakfast, or do some window-shopping downtown while you wait, and I will fly back to you as soon as possible, all right?
Abby: (crossing her arms and shaking Shawn’s hands off her shoulders) Why can’t you just tell me what is so important about this appointment? What’s so important about some girl and a playground that you can’t tell your own fiancée? Besides if she doesn’t understand then—
Shawn: Abby, go. I can’t tell you because it’s not mine to tell and you are altogether too curious sometimes. I promise it is no big deal to anyone but her. She’s here, so go be a good girl, please?
Abby: (shaking her head stubbornly) Oh, no. I’m staying right here if you’re going to insist upon being so ridiculous. And what is that supposed to mean, it’s not yours to tell? (She puts quotation marks in the air as she says it.)
Shawn: (sweetly but firmly taking Abby’s crossed arms) Abby, you cannot be with me, and I mean that I cannot tell you because it would be impolite for me to tell some stranger someone else’s life story.
Abby: (indignantly) I’m not a stranger!
Shawn: Not to me, but to her you are. Now I need you to go because she is here.
Abby: Fine. (she moves to a nearby bench and sits) I’m going to sit right here and watch you. I shan’t bother you at all; the playground is all the way over there. (she gives a dismissive wave with her hand toward the playground)
Shawn: You’re right, all of the three feet away. You stay right there, love, or I am going to have you beaten to death, burned alive and then be put on bread on water for the next six weeks before we have a lovely day together.
Abby: (laughing sarcastically) You are wasting our lovely day on some misunderstanding girl and a stupid playground, and it won’t be much fun if I’m a corpse, and if I’m beaten to death I can’t be burned alive.
Shawn: (smiling happily now) Don’t worry, Abby; you’ll be the most beautiful corpse in the world. (Abby gasps horrified and annoyed as Shawn walks to the other side of the playground.) You look very cute pouting. (He turns away from Abby and greets someone hidden by the playground equipment.) Saffy!
Mrs. Grant: I think she worries every time you’re not going to be here. See, Saffy, Shawn’s here, just like he promised. (Abby is craning her neck trying too see around the playground equipment but can’t yet see to whom Shawn is talking to.) You two have fun. I’m going to go find a bench and see if I can’t finish this blanket. Mrs. Owen’s baby is liable to pop out anytime now.
Shawn: Come on, Saffy. I bet your wrist is strong this week. Let’s try the monkey bars first. (Saffy nods her head and follows Shawn to the monkey bars. He lifts her up to reach the first bar, and she goes across with Shawn following behind her. Mrs. Grant finds her bench.)
Mrs. Grant: Hello, dear. You don’t mind if sit down, do you?
Abby: (looking up, still a bit miffed at Shawn) No, not at all. Sit down.
Mrs. Grant: (taking out her knitting and begins working on the blanket) There aren’t any other kids here, a bit too early for them, I guess. They are all probably eating their breakfast and watching those Saturday morning cartoons. Not Saffy. She comes to the park. I don’t mind; I’m up with the birds.
Abby: (Rolling her eyes) When do the birds get up?
Mrs. Grant: Around four. It’s a bit early but the beauty, is worth it. Everyday I say I’ve never seen such a beautiful sunrise, and then the next one comes. The songs the birds sing are the prettiest songs in the world too. I guess some of the younger folks might not agree though; they prefer their sleep.
Abby: (less sarcastic and more curious) Do you really get up at four every day?
Mrs. Grant: Always, dear, for over twenty years.
Abby: And you bring your daughter here every Saturday at seven in the morning?
Mrs. Grant: Saffy’s not my daughter. Goodness! Do I look young enough to be her mother? No, Saffy is my granddaughter. She lives with me though, has since her parents went to heaven.
Abby: (looking down somewhat nervously) I’m sorry.
Mrs. Grant: It was their time. Can’t say as I know why, but the Lord does. (She pauses for a moment.) Oh, here I go on babbling like a fool and not even stopping to introduce myself. I’m Mrs. Grant. (reaching out to shake Abby’s hand)
Abby: (looking up with a smile now) It’s nice to meet you. I’m Abby. (Shawn and Saffy appear in view by the slides.)
Mrs. Grant: Pleased to meet you, Abby. There’s Saffy, with Shawn. That is a good man right there. Saffy’s my granddaughter. Her momma was my daughter. That’s the two of them. (She takes a picture out of her wallet and hands it to Abby.) That was taken the day before the accident.
Abby: (She takes the picture and studies it.) She looks just like her mother, and like you.
Mrs. Grant: Thank you. Saffy’s such a special child. She’s seven now.
Abby: How old is she in the picture?
Mrs. Grant: (sighing heavily as though there’s a great weight on her) Four. It’s been three years. Three long years, and Saffy hasn’t spoken a word. A little girl is supposed to laugh and talk and have tea parties with dolls, but Saffy, she hardly smiles anymore.
Abby: What happened, if you don’t mind telling me? I don’t mean to pry.
Mrs. Grant: No, I don’t mind. It’s nice to talk about it once in a while, get it off one’s chest. Saffy was four. She was at the park with her grandfather. Saffy loves the park, always has. Saffy’s daddy would get up and take her to the park every Saturday at seven since she could hold her head up. Her parents loved her so much. They all lived with us, you see. They never went anywhere without her if they could help it; one of them always had her. One day her momma had to go to the dentist and couldn’t take her so her daddy took her to his board meeting with him. Well, on this day Saffy’s daddy couldn’t take her to the park. I’ve never seen that child get so upset that she couldn’t go. She didn’t throw a fit, mind you, just cried with a broken heart. Broke your own heart to see, so her granddaddy took her at seven in the morning. Not many people are at the playground at seven on a Saturday. He had a stroke. Poor Saffy. I can still see her right over there. (Mrs. Grants points to the swings.) We got worried when they didn’t come back for breakfast. They spent two hours at the park always; that was Saffy’s Saturday ritual, and when they didn’t come back I went to look for them, hurry them back. Saffy’s granddad, he was there on the ground, and Saffy sat next to him crying. She was never one to carry on and cry loudly, so nobody heard her.
Abby: (barely above a whisper) He died?
Mrs. Grant: With her sitting right there. The Lord only knows how long she’d been sitting there. She cried most of that day. She was at the hospital with us and saw his body. It scared her so much; she was only four. The next night her momma and daddy went to the funeral home for a quick errand, just one quick thing they had to clear up. They might have taken Saffy except she’d see the body, and they didn’t want to do that to Saffy, so I stayed home with her. They were a block from home when a drunk driver hit them. The poor girl. Four years old and she buried her parents and her grandfather in the same week. (Mrs. Grant takes a tissue out of her purse and dabs the tears in her eyes.)
Abby: I’m so sorry. That must be horrible for Saffy, and for you.
Mrs. Grant: It’s hard, but I’m sure Saffy has it worse. She hasn’t spoken a word since then. Three years, and she hasn’t said one word. After the accident she still wanted to come to the park, every Saturday at seven. She wouldn’t play, though. She’d sit right here on this bench and just stare. One day I got up to get something from the car and left her just sitting there. I came back and Shawn’s there. (She nods to where Shawn and Saffy are playing on the teeter-totter.) He’s sitting on the bench by her, talking. I don’t know what he was telling her, but she smiled, for the first time in a year. For the first time since she lost her parents and grandfather, she smiled, and it wasn’t a fake smile. It reached her eyes. (She dabs her eyes again.) You know what I mean? A smile isn’t real if it doesn’t reach your eyes.
Abby: (softly as she looks at Mrs. Grant) I know. My daddy says the same thing.
Mrs. Grant: He was waiting for her the next week. Must have gotten up at the crack of dawn to make sure he was there before her. She was looking for him, too. It was the first time since the accident I’d seen her look forward to something, to look for something. The next week I talked to him. He told me his name was Shawn and asked me if I could please tell him what Fred Elizabeth Frankenstein’s real name was so he could stop guessing. (Mrs. Grant smiles and Abby laughs.)
Abby: He comes every week?
Mrs. Grant: Rain or shine, he’s here. Sometimes I think the pair of them are going to catch the death of them in the rain, but I couldn’t imagine telling Saffy she has to stay in. Shawn comes every week. I’m sure it must be inconvenient, and he probably misses things, misses sleep, takes longer to get over being sick because he’s out here spinning Saffy on the merry-go-round, but he hasn’t missed a week yet.
Mrs. Grant: Saffy smiles now. She’s not so sad. I don’t think there’s a way on God’s earth I can thank him for what he’s done for Saffy, for me. You can’t imagine how hard it was, to see her hurt so. Shawn must have had some magic up his sleeve to take some of it away. Look at her, Abby. What does she look like to you?
Abby: (looks long and hard at Shawn and Saffy in the sandbox.) She looks like a happy little girl.
Mrs. Grant: (nodding) Saffy never looks this happy except when she’s here, with him. He’s the only other person that hasn’t given up on her. Her teachers gave up on her; her friends gave up on her. Everybody has given up on her at some point or another, but not him. She hasn’t spoken once; that’s what causes most people to give up on her. Can you imagine? Would you give up?
Abby: I can’t imagine. I don’t think I could do that. I think I’d give up or get tired. (Admiration shows in her voice and eyes.)
Mrs. Grant: I think just about everybody would. I’m so thankful he didn’t. He comes every week, and it means the world to Saffy. I can’t tell you what it does for her, to know he always comes, after everyone else left her. (Tears gather in Abby’s eyes and start to spill over.) Goodness, child, I didn’t mean to make you cry! (She reaches in her purse and hands Abby a tissue.)
Abby: No, it’s not you. It’s me. I’m so selfish. I’ve been such a whiney brat today. (She looks desperately at Mrs. Grant.) I’ve got my parents, a good education, I’ve got everything, even Shawn, and all I do is complain and try to make him feel horrible when he’s here making a girl like Saffy smile.
Mrs. Grant: (confused) Shawn?
Abby: (looking at Shawn and Saffy, who are walking to the swings she starts to ramble) Shawn’s my fiancée, see. I came here to surprise him. I could only stay today, and I tried to make him skip this appointment. I tried to make him feel bad for coming here instead of spending the time with me. I didn’t know. He’s so selfless and I’ve been selfish. You and Saffy have been through so much and lost so much and I have everything but I’m still so selfish. I didn’t know this is why he comes, what it meant for you or for her.
Mrs. Grant: Don’t feel bad, Abby. I think our Shawn could put us all to shame. Even I have felt like giving up on Saffy, but not Shawn. I have been so selfish sometimes, dragging Saffy to the moon and back, and I’m sure she can’t like it. Saffy and Shawn, they figured out life. It’s not perfect for Saffy at home. If it were even a little okay, she wouldn’t be silent for three years. I’m sure it’s not perfect for Shawn either, but here in this park, they found a way to be content, to be happy in a hurricane.
(They are silent for a long time as they watch Shawn and Saffy play.)
Abby: Why does Saffy love the park? Doesn’t it give her nightmares?
Mrs. Grant: Do you know what Saffy and her daddy would do at the park? Fly. Saffy, she wants to fly again, but after the accident her wings were broken. Saffy’s daddy would put her on his lap and they’d swing, and Saffy would fly. She loved it, loved to fly. I wish she’d do it again. Maybe it would help her, but she won’t go on the swings.
Abby: On the swings? (Mrs. Grant nods.) Look. (Abby points to the swings. Saffy is sitting on Shawn’s lap on the swings. She laughs out loud.)
Shawn: (surprised Saffy spoke but doesn’t let her see as they continue to swing) Yeah, Saffy. We’re flying.