Butterflies and bees danced under the summer sun as Gail walked to the raspberry patch. The heat was increasing as the day wore on but was still bearable. With the lake as her pool, the heat did not really matter to Gail. She would re-apply sunscreen and go for a dip later.
Finding a bush with plenty of ripe, red berries, Gail started picking. Her husband Michael was grilling a trout he had caught for dinner. The berries were for the salad she was making to go with it.
Gail and Michael were spending a few weeks at their cottage. It was a chance for Gail to recover from her latest round of cancer treatment. The respite was badly needed by both her body and her soul.
A face appeared in the bushes, startling Gail. It was a girl who looked maybe ten years old. She was pretty, with bright green eyes and long, uncombed blonde hair. The girl wore a simple lemon-yellow shift with a flower stuck in the bodice.
“Hello,” Gail said with a smile.
“I saw a turtle,” the girl responded, eyes wide and voice hushed.
“That’s cool. I like turtles. Are you picking berries, too?” Gail went on.
Her visitor smiled.
“I know where the best ones are,” the girl told Gail, her voice louder, “Come.”
The girl pushed further into the meadow.
“This way,” she called back, practically dancing.
Gail followed, surprised by how easily the girl moved through the vegetation. They reached a second clump of bushes, dense with plump, ripe berries.
“See?” the girl announced with a grin, “The best ones.”
She picked one and offered it to Gail to taste.
“That is good,” Gail responded, amazed by the taste, “Are you from one of the other cottages?”
The girl smiled and did a little pirouette.
“I live up here. This is my world and my berries,” she chirped, almost singing.
Gail started picking with the girl’s help. When her bowl was full, Gail stood and stretched.
“Thank you so much,” she said, “I must get home.”
“Me, too. You’re welcome. I like to help,” the girl said, “Those berries will make you feel better.”
Gail paused. She had not mentioned her health. Maybe her appearance, still wan and emaciated from the chemo, had clued in the girl. She started back towards the gravel road.
A sound behind Gail, like flapping wings, made her turn. The girl was gone. The bushes stirred as if someone had passed. Gail frowned, then continued home.
“This is amazing,” Doctor Williams said as she studied Gail’s test reports three weeks later.
“What is, Jeannette?” Gail asked, suddenly worried.
“There’s no sign of cancer. I’ll order more tests to be sure. There’s no way that last round of chemo should have put you into remission already but …,” the doctor paused, then smiled, “That’s what this shows.”
Gail stared in shock, then relaxed and smiled.
“Those berries will make you feel better,” the girl had said.