Suzie sits, in full 18[sup][size=2]th[/size][/sup] century garb, with a ruffled dress, bonnet and all, clutching to a decrepit teddy bear. She stands out amongst the bustling, modern city life that surrounds her. She looks lost and out of place. The sidewalk she sits on is cold, dirty and wet but she doesn’t care. She looks and feels so small as she stares blankly into her own thoughts, trying to make sense of the confusion tumbling through her head and the strange world that surrounds her. Although she feels out of place within herself, everyone around her only sees a little girl playing make believe. It is not so strange to see such a young child playing ‘dress up’. They all say, ‘she is just playing’ or ‘she will grow out of it’, but in her mind, this is all she knows and this is all she has ever known. She doesn’t belong here. In her mind she belongs to a different time and place. The thoughts and memories of a different time are so vivid in her mind, they seem more real than the life she is currently living.
‘What are you doing out here darling? Come inside sweet heart!’
A man fumbles down the concrete stairs of his town house behind her and starts heading in her direction. As she hears his voice, the familiar voice of her father Derrick, her mind suddenly returns back to the reality she is present in. He swoops his girl up from the sidewalk in one quick and delicate motion before making his way back inside the town house with his precious daughter in his arms. She says nothing and looks at him blankly as he softly mutters mumbled words to her with tenderness and love in his voice. Once he has shut the door behind them, he delicately releases her from his arms.
‘have you been imagining out there again darling?’
Her father queries as he bends down to meet her at eye level.
‘I never imagine’
She responds bluntly with a blank expression.
‘Remembering what sweet heart?’
She pauses as she tries to put her nonsense thoughts into words.
‘the houses, the people, everything. It was so different’.
Her father looks at her puzzled, but he has heard such things before and responds in the usual way.
‘that’s nice honey, but you have to tell mummy and daddy if you want to go outside and play, ok?’.
She knows he doesn’t understand. No one understands. As she sits on that street day after day, she sees cars where the horse and carts should be, the ladies are dressed in shirts and jeans and not the elegant dresses and bonnets she can remember, there are modern town houses where the ornate houses with lawns should have been and the world seems so much bigger and more crowded than it used to be. In her mind it’s not her imagination. It’s a memory.
Suzie shyly nods to her father’s statement as she continues to cling to her teddy bear and wanders down the hallway immersed in her own little world.
Her father watches her, slightly concerned, as she meanders down the hall before he makes his way into the lounge room with mild urgency and a furrowed brow. His wife and the mother of their child Leanne is sitting in front of the TV with a cookie in one hand and a remote control in the other. He approaches his wife and stands next to the couch she is sitting on.
‘I am worried about Suzie, we should never have bought her that dress and bonnet’.
His wife wipes cookie crumbs off her face delicately and immediately switches off the television to faces her husband.
‘Oh she is just a little girl with a vivid imagination’.
‘I’m starting to think it could be more than that’
he states as he rubs the side of his head with concern.
his wife asks as she puts her cookie down on the coffee table.
‘She just told me it is not her imagination, it’s her memory, and her stories of horses and carts and men in top hats have been getting worse since we bought her that dress’.
His wife responds to his statement in defence of her daughter.
‘Well she has been telling us these stories ever since she could talk, so when she asked to wear that dress and bonnet, it’s only natural isn’t it? Sure it is a little odd. Some little girls have a fascination for princesses or ballerina’s, but our little girl wants to be an elegant 18[sup][size=2]th[/size][/sup] century lady. It’s just a faze she is going through, she will grow out of it’.
He sighs as he responds
‘I hope you are right, but I must admit it scares me you know. She looks at us and the world around her so blankly. It is as if she is looking straight through us and the world around her and instead she is seeing a whole different world in front of her eyes’.
Leanne stands up, approaches her husband with a look of calm and ease and caresses her fingers slightly through his hair to somehow ease his concern.
‘You worry too much my dear, she is fine, but if you are that worried about her, I will take her to the Doctor tomorrow for a check-up just in case’.
Derrick slowly wraps his arms around his wife’s waste for a close embrace, and kisses her on the cheek
Out in the dimly lit hallway, their daughter Suzie sits with her back against the lounge room wall next to the open door. Her legs are outstretched and her teddy bear is sitting at her feet looking back at her. She stares at her teddy as she absorbs what she is hearing from her parents.
‘They think I’m sick teddy’
she whispers to her bear
‘I’m not sick, I’m not’.
She grabs her teddy by the arm and begins to jerk it around the floor, side to side to release her frustration.
‘I don’t belong here, I don’t fit in, I have to go, I have to find a new home where I belong’.
She stands up with determination as quiet sobbing tears trickle down her face. The front door is now locked but as she peers down the other end of the hallway, a window has been left open just enough for her to fit through. She races towards the window quickly yet silently with her teddy bear slung in her arms. There is a side table under the high reaching window. She begins to pull out the draws of the table like steps. As she climbs up each draw towards the window, she can see the sun setting outside through her blurry, tear filled eyes. As she reaches the top, she hesitates for a moment before bravely lunging herself out of the window and landing into the garden below.
She looks back up at the window she fell from in an inconsolable state, as she sees herself released from a world she never belonged to which represents the very opposite to what her mind tells her to be true and real. She longs to find this place and time that her mind continually takes her too. Everything is so much easier, simpler and happier there. For now it is just a memory in her mind but she is determined to find this world for real. She stands up from the dirt, and wipes the tears from her eyes as her mind focuses on the new goal at hand.
She looks dead ahead at the neighbour’s house and beyond it she can see a park filled with trees just across the road from this house. She does not know what she will find there, but she just knows she has to go somewhere and her young mind decides impulsively that this is where she must go. The whole world is shut off around her as she focuses in on her destination. Her objective now seems so real, and so sure, nothing can get in her way with her new found determination. With direction and drive, she climbs effortlessly over the small chain link fence in front of her and marches down the small grassy strip down the side of this house. The tree filled park is drawing closer to her as she picks up her pace towards her destination and before she knows it, he feet are stepping off grass onto pavement. Then in an instant, darkness. A deep and seemingly endless darkness. No thoughts, no feelings just nothing. Nothing is, nothing was and nothing will be in this darkness.
Then slowly, ever so slowly, slight and very distant sounds break through the nothingness. The murmur of voices, the sounds of life can be heard, yet they are ever so far away. She focuses in on them as a glimmer of hope amongst the darkness and as she does, the sounds get louder and louder and a pin point of light begins to break through. She beings to recognise the sound of her father’s voice. She can hear him saying ‘Wake up darling, please wake up’. As her senses slowly return, she grasps at the strings of life being offered to her and drags herself back to consciousness in desperation.
Her eyes open in a haze as she manages to push some words out from her horse throat.
As she awakes, she sees her distraught father sitting across from her as her mother re-enters the room with a look of shock and joy on her face. As her parents move closer to her side, she looks around and realises she is in a hospital, and somehow everything seems different. She feels so very tired and broken yet somehow everything fits. She looks at her parents and the room around her and she no longer sees what once was, and instead the world around her in the here and now makes sense. The world she once longed for has disappeared from her mind and has been replaced with a new appreciation for the life and time she is living in.
She begins giggling to herself as she comes to the realisation of her new and somehow changed mental state.
‘what are you laughing at sweet heart?’
asks her father, relieved to see his little girl alive.
‘Is this real?’
she asks in a giggle
‘of course my love’
says her mother
‘This may be hard to hear but you were hit by a car sweet heart. You are very lucky and we are so happy that you didn’t leave us’.
‘It’s ok, I’m back now’
Suzie exclaims as she smiles back at her parents.
She looks back at her parents as if she has just noticed them and the world around her for the first time. She may never understand why she was so immersed in another time and place that was planted in her mind for so many years, and she knows that no one would ever understand the world she was trapped in, but she is so thankful to finally be a part of the world that surrounds her where she can be involved in and appreciate every little piece of the modern world that she lives in.