The colorful quilt began to take shape in Margie’s lap. As she pieced together the rich purples, blues, and reds she couldn’t help but think about the quilt that was given to her and Harold for their wedding forty years ago. Her mother had made it by hand, every painstaking stitch a story of perseverance and love. The quilt covered the top of their bed for many years until it became too worn, losing much of the cotton stuffing.
Margie had always been the type of woman who people referred to endearingly as “colorful.” She had a vivid imagination and loved telling impossible stories to her children when they were young. She was drawn to brilliant hues. They made her feel happy and inspired. Including them in this quilt in particular was especially satisfying, although she wasn’t exactly sure why.
Christmas Eve came and Margie received a surprise visitor. Her nephew Charlie was recently home from serving with the United States Army in Iraq, where his leg was severely injured from an explosion. Charlie lost the leg, but not his determination to make the best of his situation. He was currently on crutches, still trying to get used to being mobile with only one leg. He had been measured and cast for an artificial leg, but its arrival was several weeks away.
Margie was delighted when she opened her door to Charlie’s beaming face.
“Aunt Margie!” he cried, and he nearly knocked her over with the force of his exuberant one-armed hug. One of his crutches clattered to the floor, reminding them both of his change in circumstances. Margie nearly cried as she bent over to pick it up for him, barely managing to suppress her involuntary sob. She was determined to not upset him, however.
Margie hadn’t seen the boy since his return from overseas. They lived several hundred miles away and she did not drive that far anymore. The grocery store, the hairdresser, and church were the only destinations she dared venture out to now. She had talked to her sister, Charlie’s mother, over the phone extensively after they were notified of his injuries. His mother, who had an anxious tendency, had gotten Margie worked up to the point that she thought he must be knocking at death’s door. But the Charlie who stood in front of her on Christmas Eve was far from it. His cheeks were ruddy from the winter wind, making his green eyes seem to shine even more than usual. He pulled his stocking hat off his head, revealing his sloppy mess of light brown hair.
Margie couldn’t help herself. She reached out and ruffled his growing shag. Evidently Charlie had given up on his military cut. His aunt approved. His curling locks suited him better.
Charlie sat with Margie for several hours in her front room. She tried asking him about the attack which resulted in him losing his leg, but he wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. From the haunted look that passed over his eyes Margie concluded he was more wounded than he liked to show, maybe even more than he was ready to acknowledge to himself. It would come with time, she knew.
Instead, Margie began telling Charlie about the little mother who she had been observing for most of the year. She told him about the child and how sweet it was to watch her playing with her mother in the small patch of grass in the front of their apartment. She also voiced her concern for their welfare, as she had never seen a visitor for them, not even once.
The sun began to set and Margie noticed the young woman hurrying up the sidewalk toward the apartment complex. She had never looked so happy before. Margie wondered what could have happened to put such a smile on her face. She pointed her out to Charlie and noticed with satisfaction the way his face lit up when he saw the pretty young woman.