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Penny

No matter how bright the sun shone, the darkness overpowered her inner thoughts and swallowed her whole. She perched on the rustic bench that overlooked the three-mile-long white sandy beach, mesmerized with each wave slapping against the shore. A chattering gull flew here and there as a child’s giggle danced in the wind beneath the drift of a colorful kite. Her mind was dark as night, any laughter, music, or even people snuffed out of her thoughts. The heavy feeling of a wave crashed over her body again and again, draining out the energy she didn’t possess.

She didn’t notice the person approaching, but his voice carried the right tone for her to hear him say, “A penny for your thoughts?”

She didn’t bother looking up into his young brownish eyes as she mumbled a reply, “They are not worth a penny.”

He took in her words but didn’t run. Instead, his body slid softly into the space next to hers, and they sat in silence. His long bare legs stretched out in front of him, he folded his hands behind his head and leaned back into the bench, breathing in the salt air.

Her blank stare left the beach scene that stared back at her, her gaze landing on the crinkled stationary she clutched in one hand. She wished she had never found the note. It clearly wasn’t meant to be read by her, at least not today. The stationary must have cost a pretty penny. She let out a long exhale. Her own troubles snuck to the forefront of her mind. She knew she didn’t have two pennies to rub together—not enough to help make a difference.

She felt the gaze of the blond-haired stranger, his presence next to her on the bench somehow welcome. She wondered why he chose her bench to sit on, but she sat quietly, careful not to start a conversation.

He was hoping he could find the words to mutter—anything at all—but he didn’t want to scare her away. Waiting for the right moment, the precise words, made him feel like a penny waiting for change.

A tear formed and hung onto her lower eyelid. She didn’t move to wipe it away. She didn’t care if her mascara ran. Maybe nothing mattered anymore. Life as she knew it was changed forever. She regretted more than anything reading it as her gaze went from paper to sky, and in her mind, she yelled, “Why?”

The world around her was a million miles away, the sun hidden by a dark cloud. The ironic meaning of a dark cloud hanging over her became symbolic as she imagined the actual cloud above was heavy and ready to let go of all the weight she carried. Wet droplets slowly came to rest on her legs and arms one by one and then the tempo quickened, but she remained motionless. She felt the gaze of the young man who hadn’t run for cover, then glanced over in his direction where two eyes as bright as new pennies met hers.

He held open one hand and slowly pushed it toward her in an offering for her to take it, but why? “I’ll give you two pennies worth of advice. Let’s get out of the rain,” he whispered as his hand filled with rainwater.

They both stared at the droplets, which turned to streams. She recognized him from somewhere and hoped it wasn’t from the 11 o’clock news. His copper-colored eyes were warm, and the sound of his voice soothing.

The touch of her dainty hand pressing into his sent out exhilarating currents neither expected. They stood and then ran hand in hand to the nearest shelter.

She looked into his eyes that were partially hidden by his dripping wet hair. Her lips parted slightly as she spoke softly, “A penny saved is a Penny earned.”

He tilted his head and thought for a moment, then grinned and said, “It was worth every penny, and I should know…my name is Nickel.”

She looked down at their feet, and her body began to shake

He held her hand firmly, wondering what to do.

Her bright copper eyes met his, and she said, “I’m sorry. I am not crying. I’m laughing. My name is Penny.”

He exhaled the breath he’d been holding in and laughed. Their gaze never broke when he reached his other hand toward her.

She hesitated before giving him the note.

After reading it, he gazed into her eyes and smiled. “You know, you don’t need a nickel or a penny to help, but sometimes you need a Nickel and a Penny’s hard work to make a difference.”

The weight of the world is sometimes too much for us to carry alone. Sometimes a new perspective—change—is all you need.

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