Leaves swirl from the ground in a sudden wind. A wind five-year-old Ye’ Ruo thinks left her mouth along with the words of her wish. A wish uttered hushed and filled with sorrow.
She wished simply to, “help.”
The wind howls and churns the remains of summer in a cyclone of red and yellow. The sound is violent. At first, Ye’ thought the wind was Siming, the balancer of the Ying and the Yang come to punish her for wishing such a selfish thing. For the sake of balance, she probably should have wished for her father to get better, or for her mother to have the strength to work hard, day and night. But no she was selfish and wished she could help.
A little girl.
A face materializes in the tornado of dead leaves and Ye’ thinks of her grandmother even before the bract begins to settle. Once quiet the shag resembles the burial shroud she last remembered seeing draped over a much older woman lying in a coffin.
A younger version of the woman thought dead stands over her looking down. She is radiant, the most beautiful person Ye’ has ever seen but she isn’t sure if it is, in fact, her grandmother or not. Then the woman smiles. In the smile, she finds warmth and love and certainty.
A sudden fear hits her that her grandmother knows she was selfish. “Grandma, I am so sorry I wished to help. I know I am just a little girl and there is nothing I can do but be a little girl.”
The brittle leaves rustle as her grandma stretches out a hand from the delicate foliole gown and drags it softly through the little girl’s long black hair, “You can help if you want my sweet.”
“Maybe you do not have to be a little girl, if you do not wish to be one?”