When Alice became ill, she was pleasantly surprised by how well her son handled household duties. She was beginning to believe he wasn’t as untrustworthy as she’d always assumed until the day he didn’t return home.”Roy, what have you done?” When Alice saw the goat standing in her kitchen, she burst into tears.” I brought Macey inside because she was cold,” the boy explained.
Alice locked her gaze on Macey, the goat. She was at a loss for what to do with her ten-year-old son. He seemed to be deliberately naughty at times, such as when he left his toys on the floor instead of tidying them. At times like this, she knew he’d done the right thing, even if it meant a goat ate her oven mitts. “Don’t give her that!” Alice dashed through the kitchen. “Roy, put her back in the barn. She has a comfortable bed there.” “However, mom—”
“I said, get out!” Alice exploded. Roy immediately burst into tears. “Fine, but I’m also sleeping in the barn.” As the boy and goat walked away, Alice leaned against the sink, her oven mitt clutched in one hand. It was exhausting to be Roy’s parent. She wished her husband, Mitch, was still alive and that the war that had taken him away from her had never happened.
At the very least, they’d always have Mitch’s cabin to call home. As she walked to the back door, Alice ran her fingers along the walls. She walked through the light snow to the small barn, following the path she’d cleared earlier. “You can’t sleep in the barn, Roy,” Alice said as she walked in. She frowned because Roy was not present. Macey wasn’t either. Alice returned her gaze to the outside world.
Through the snow, tracks led away from the barn. They walked along the forest’s edge. Alice followed them with increasing apprehension. Alice could hear Roy screaming as she got closer to the river. As she charged through the snow, Alice yelled for her son. Macey bleated pitifully near the riverbank, but all Alice cared about was the shattered ice bobbing in the water.
“Mom!” Roy’s head and arm poked through the surface. “I’m on my way, baby!” Alice yanked off her jacket and boots. She dove into the icy river without a second thought. Alice’s limbs went numb instantly, and her skin caught fire. She was moving so slowly as she swam toward Roy. Her son had submerged once more. Alice attempted to swim faster, but she was unable.
She dove into the area where she had seen Roy. The river wasn’t intense, but it was murky. Alice scoured the water until her lungs burned, but she found no trace of Roy. She rose to the surface and inhaled a lungful of air. Alice’s heart was pounding in her chest. She could no longer feel her arms or legs. She realized in the back of her mind that she and Roy might not survive this.
Then Roy broke through the surface to Alice’s left. She rushed up to the boy and grabbed him. At first, her fingers slipped over his soaked jacket. He began sinking again, but Alice grabbed his arm. She drew him into the security of her arms. “Mom?” he asked quietly. “Roy, I’ve got you covered. Keep going, and everything will be fine.” Alice carried her son home and rushed him to the hospital a few miles away in town.
She waited impatiently for the doctors to examine her while they treated Roy for exposure. Fortunately, both mother and son were unharmed. When they returned home, life went back to normal. Roy seemed to have developed a fear of water and was a little withdrawn for a few days. That, Alice reasoned, was probably for the best because it would keep him away from the river.
However, it soon became clear that Alice and Roy’s ordeal in the river had other consequences. It began with a slight cough, but Alice soon developed chest pains and a fever. When Alice went to see the doctor, she was told she had pneumonia. “I’ll prescribe medication, but you must rest and take care of yourself first. If the situation worsens, you will need to be hospitalized.”
“I’ll give it my all,” Alice said. As Alice moved deeper into the woods, her coughs echoed through the trees. She walked straight through without seeing her son.
She wasn’t certain Roy would let her sleep. He wasn’t a bad kid, but he was easily distracted and frequently forgot about his chores and other obligations. Alice sat down with Roy at home for a serious discussion.
She explained that she was sick and needed to rest. When Alice went to see the doctor, she was told she had pneumonia. “I’ll prescribe medication, but you must rest and take care of yourself first. If the situation worsens, you will need to be hospitalized.” “I’ll give it my all,” Alice said. As Alice moved deeper into the woods, her coughs echoed through the trees. She walked straight through without seeing her son.
She wasn’t certain Roy would let her sleep. He wasn’t a bad kid, but he was easily distracted and frequently forgot about his chores and other obligations. Alice sat down with Roy at home for a serious discussion. She explained that she was sick and needed to rest. “I need you to make sure you complete all of your chores every day, and I may have to ask you to do some extra work as well. It will only be until I feel better, but Roy, I will rely on you.”
“I won’t disappoint you, Mom,” Roy promised. Roy was adamant about keeping his promise to Mom. He got up in the morning, ate breakfast with Alice, and then went to feed the goats. He was once distracted by the sound of a cardinal singing. He went off to see it, but when he got close to the river, he turned around. Another time, he became enraged when he forgot about the potatoes boiling on the stove and burned them.
In a fit of rage, he yanked the pot off the stove and hurled it into the snow. He went to get them a few moments later because he was hungry and didn’t have anything else to cook for dinner. Roy was impulsive and easily distracted, but he was also thoughtful and intelligent. He realized Mom got sick because he saved her and that if he’d been more careful, he wouldn’t have fallen into the river.
So Roy was determined to go to any length to ensure Mom’s recovery. He found it difficult to focus on his chores at times, but he eventually finished them all. Roy was returning home from getting eggs from one of their neighbors when he came across a familiar path through the woods. It had become overgrown, but Roy knew there was something special at the end that would make Mom happy.
Alice called her son a few hours later and received no response. She sat up in bed with a frown. Roy had left a few hours before. Even if he took a detour to the nearby shop, he should have returned by now. Alice went downstairs, but Roy was nowhere to be found. She attempted to call him at the time, but his phone was dead. Alice’s skin crawled with anxiety. She called her neighbor, but the woman informed her that Roy had already left with fresh eggs.
What if something were to happen to him? It was getting darker now. Alice wrapped herself in warm clothing and set out to find Roy. She followed the path he must have taken to retrieve the eggs until she came across her neighbor’s house. Alice had to double over as she made her way through the woods due to a persistent cough. She remembered the doctor’s warning about taking care of herself, but she needed to find Roy.
As Alice moved deeper into the woods, her coughs echoed through the trees. She walked straight through without seeing her son. Alice came to a halt when she reached the path that circled the woods on that side. As she studied the snowy landscape before her, Alice spotted a clue. Alice coughed again as she retrieved the blue and gray hat she had knitted for Roy from a bush. She shuddered, but it wasn’t from the cold. Roy had undoubtedly suffered a calamitous event.
“At least he was wearing a hat,” she grumbled. She took another look around, and her gaze was drawn to the farmhouse where Mr. Crawford used to live. The property had been abandoned since the older man died, and his son did not have time to maintain it. Roy would never enter that old structure, but the greenhouse was close to the main house. Her son was fascinated by the flowers and vegetables that Mr. Crawford grew in his greenhouse.
Perhaps he’d decided to return. Alice dashed to the greenhouse. She discovered a trail of small footsteps in the snow. A squeaky voice carried to her on the wind as she approached the building. “Please assist me!” Alice dashed to the greenhouse’s open door. She discovered Roy trapped in a hole in the floor just inside. “You shouldn’t be outside, Mom,” he said.
Alice shook her head and took her son’s arms in hers. “I became concerned when you did not return home, so I came to look for you. What do you intend to do in Mr. Crawford’s greenhouse? Nobody looks after it anymore, you know.” “I do.” Roy sighed as he brushed himself off. “But I wanted to bring you some snowdrops. When you were sick, Dad and I would always buy you snowdrops. Mr. Crawford once told me that they reseed themselves every year, so I came to see if I could get some for you.”
“I’m truly sorry, Mom!” Roy went on. “I’ve worked really hard to be good and responsible. I want to help you improve, so I’ll do better from now on!” Alice drew her son into a close embrace. She’d seen how much her son changed while she was ill and realized how important it was for him to have important responsibilities to fulfill.
“Roy, I’m not mad at you. In fact, I’m very proud of how hard you’ve worked to keep up with all of your responsibilities. I know you had some difficult days, but you’ve proven to me that you can be dependable.” “I did it all for you, Mom,” Roy said, sniffing. “I understand, baby.” Alice gave her son a friendly smile. Her eyes welled up with tears as she remembered Mitch bringing her snowdrops when she was sick. Roy’s desire to carry on the tradition started by his father warmed her heart.
Alice took Roy’s hand and walked home with him. Roy immediately put Alice to bed and began his evening chores. Alice dreamed of snowdrops and Mitch as she fell asleep. He would have been so proud of the man Roy was becoming. Alice was in good health when Roy returned to school in January. Even though she was feeling better, the events in the river and at Mr. Crawford’s greenhouse remained in her mind. She was disgusted by how rundown the property was becoming and decided to take action.
The next day, Alice went to Roy’s school and asked to see Mr. Peters, the Natural Science teacher. “I have an idea that might be of interest to your students,” Alice said. “My neighbor’s property has an abandoned greenhouse. It was previously used to grow flowers and vegetables over the winter. It could be an interesting practical element to the curriculum if you and your students restored it.”
Mr. Peters liked Alice’s idea, but he needed permission from the principal and the property owner before proceeding. Alice immediately gave him Mr. Crawford’s son’s phone number. Alice waited for news for the next week. Every time she drove by the old greenhouse, she took a detour. It had taken on special significance for her, and she didn’t know what to do if her restoration plan failed. Then Alice received a phone call from Mr. Peters.
“I’ve received all of the necessary approvals to proceed with the greenhouse restoration,” he said. “The owner said I could come by whenever I wanted to take a look, and I thought you might want to join me, since it was your idea.” Alice concurred. Mr. Peters and his students, including Roy, worked on the greenhouse every day for the next few weeks. The rotting floor and several broken glass panes were replaced.
Roy was the most enthusiastic of all the students involved in the project. He came by on weekends to tend to the seeds and seedlings the students had planted, and he became fascinated by the water system. “I think I want to be a horticulturist when I grow up,” Roy said one day to Alice. “It would be fantastic to spend the entire day working with plants and watching them grow.”