It was an almost nameless little town, in an almost unknown country-side area. With little houses planted, like trees, far enough away from each other, that two neighbours could have lived their whole life without knowing they even existed, if one had no curiousity.
She lived in the home her father had built from his bare hands. Not a big house, but comfortable enough for her own needs. Especially since her parents had left her, a couple of years back. She had grown up learning to take care of their little farm, and the few animals and small piece of land that were her family’s legacy sufficed to make her life a good one.
One day, as she was sweeping the broom on the hardwood kitchen floor, someone knocked at her door. She went to open it, curious to see who this might be, and a man stood on her porch, waiting for her… She had never seen him before.
“Good afternoon, good Lady!” and he introduced himself. He was a peddler, going from town to town, trying to ease people’s lives with tricks and remedies they didn’t even know they needed.
“Would you have a few minutes to spare?”
She was intrigued. He had swell ways that made her want to invite him in right away. But she knew better, with her father’s constant reminder of how dangerous strangers could be, when she was a child. Nonetheless, she was the only master of her life now, and his company was very tempting…
“I have some stew on the stove, and you still have a long way to go before the next city… Would you care to join me for dinner?”
He noticed her reddened cheeks, and accepted the free meal with obvious pleasure. She invited him in, locking the cold out. While he warmed his hands on the fire, she stirred the stew, sliced her home made bread, and set the table for two.
It was nice to share thoughts instead of just eating by herself. He spoke of far away places, unknown to her. Then again, she had never left the farm, except a couple of times, to attend the nearby public market with her dad… Which made anywhere look exotic. He didn’t seem to mind her very simple ways of living, and showed genuine interest in her anecdotes.
Sipping on his coffee, he mentionned how he didn’t want to abuse of her hospitality, and was about to excuse himself, picking his hat resting on the armchair.
“The sun has set already, and you have a long way to go… Why don’t you sleep here? I have an extra room, which hasn’t seen a soul in years.”
He agreed, and she disappeared for a moment, to prepare her late parents’ bed, and trotted back to the living room, to share a few last moments before excusing herself for the night.
When he woke up, he found the house empty. He couldn’t find her anywhere, and it is only when he looked out the window that he understood. She was outside, feeding the chickens, and the other animals. He hurried, joined her and offered to help milk the couple of cows she cared for…
After a hearty breakfast, he was getting ready to leave the warmth of her house when she suddenly asked him,
“Don’t you sell stuff for a living? You haven’t even opened your bag, yet…”
He smiled at her. He could have taken the bottles of elixirs and the powder pouches out, to explain how this could cure that, or how some products could help her find sleep, or get rid of anxiety…But he just shook his head, adjusting his hat.
“You don’t need anything I sell…” he paused for a moment, hesitating to walk to the door. “Well, there might be something, but I don’t know if it’d really be helpfull to you…”
Her eyes sparkled, and she pulled him back to the kitchen table, wanting to know everything about that thing he could offer to ease her life. He sat, put his hat back on the wooden surface and told her, the only thing he thought she might lack, after spending some time with her, was company. The only thing he felt she might suffer from was loneliness. Her face straightened at his unsuspected words, and she looked more serious than he would have guessed she even could.
Agreeing, she asked what he could possibly have to solve that problem in her life? He asked her to be trustfull, since his methods were sometimes surprising, and taking her left wrist, he pulled her arm gently over the table, and slipped a rock in her hand.
He could tell by the puzzled look in her eyes that she couldn’t understand how this would be of any help. Who could have, without proper explanation anyway?
“This is your loneliness… If you trust me, you’ll hold on to it, day and night until you meet the right person to give it up to…”
“How will I manage to do my chores around the farm with that rock in my hand?? How am I supposed to milk my cows, or knit at night?”
Again he smiled, before taking over the explanation… “You can always give up, and put the rock down. It is your choice to make. But if you do, you’ll only have yourself to blame for being alone and lonely… If you find a way to work with it, you’ll have a constant reminder of the only thing making you sad at night. And you’ll be far more open, aware and attentive to people around you. When you meet the right man, you’ll just have to pass your loneliness on to him, and he’ll take care of it!”
She remained doubtfull. Looking at the round smooth stone in her palm, she wanted to trust the peddler, but it all just seemed silly to her. How did he know it worked, anyway?
The man turned his gaze towards the fireplace for a moment, obviously giving a good long thought to her question. Turning back to her, his eyes were different when he continued…
“I don’t know for sure, but I sure hope so… I just gave you mine!”
The discreet flushing of her cheeks pleased him. She streched over the table, and put the stone back down, in front of him.
“Then, I guess I won’t need this!” standing up and walking towards the stove… “more coffee?”
He put the rock in his pocket, hung back his coat, by the door, and watched her pouring the hot beverage in his empty mug…