After the death of her husband, Olive discovers the healing power of creativity.
Olive didn’t know how long she’d sat on her bed staring at the stars. They were so bright that night, shining like thousands of little suns in the sky. It brightened up the window next to her bed, its paper-white curtain fully open.
Olive sighed, a sound like a balloon deflating. She felt like that. Ten years ago, Olive had sat on this very bed, holding her breath and silently praying to the stars as her husband took his last breaths from a fever. They were too poor to pay for a doctor to come to their house, and going there would just take too long.
That was when she lost her husband.
That was when she became no one.
That was when she became just an old woman with frail hands.
Olive wiped away a tear, staring at the full sky. The wind through the open window tickled her cheek as she stared out at the stars. She imagined that they were reaching out to her, glowing brightly. Her husband was up there too, waving at her and telling her that she would be all right, even though they both knew she wouldn’t. Not without him . . .
Olive only looked down when she felt something brush against her leg. Gasping with surprise, she found her old embroidery kit, unfinished, with unraveling thread. Olive blinked, then picked up her kit, staring at the unfinished picture she had started. Her eyes welled with tears.
“It’s the sky,” Olive murmured, almost more to the embroidery than to herself. “The night sky.” Memories flashed behind Olive’s head: Her husband asking her to do one of the night skies. Her agreeing. Her getting started. And now, her not finishing, not having time to finish. Embroidery was one of her husband’s favorite things to do. It would certainly be nice if Olive finished this piece for him. But she couldn’t . . . ever since his death, she couldn’t . . .
“It’ll be good.” Olive hadn’t realized that the words had come from her until moments later. “It’ll be good.” She said the words again, trying to convince herself that it was the right choice. “It’ll help me.”
The last words were the ones that sealed the box and sent it away. Olive would do it. It’ll help me.
So Olive got to work, stitching her way through the embroidery, just like she used to. Her hands were more shaky and weak than she had remembered, but overall she was confident. Olive repeated the words inside her mind: back stitch, chain stitch, French knot, running stitch. She knew exactly what to do and how to do it. Staring at the stars for days and days on end had finally paid off.
As Olive continued to stitch, she felt her insides loosen up, and all her worries and terrible thoughts began to float away from her. This feeling was what she really missed, to feel so free and creative and open. And when Olive looked down at her work an hour later, she realized that she had finished all but a little triangle of space in the right corner. She just needed to complete the final piece. Olive was finishing her embroidery and healing her broken insides with that last stitch.
She knew what to do.