“Hey kid!!! Stop!! You’re not gonna get away with that!!!!!!,” Shouts the man at the cashier.
The teenager runs pass the employee, he knocks down a pregnant woman who was passing by on his way out. Two policemen arrived in their cruiser, guns were pointed at the teenager.
The next day, it was 8a.m in the morning. The teenager was sent to face the judge.
“How do you plead?” asks the judge.
The teenager doesn’t say a word.
“Age 16, first time crime offender. I can’t send you to jail, still underage. Juve? *sigh* your crime isn’t heavy enough.. Frederick Krass, I hereby assign you to 480 hours of community service at Saint Mary’s home for the elderly.
Frederick was released that day in the custody of his mother. On their way back in the car;
“Why did you do such a stupid thing?”
“I don’t know why I did it mum.”
“It better not be for some girl!!”
“What!? No mum~ no~, no girl~.”
“It’s a good thing the judge was nice enough not to give you Juve, or I have to talk to you through a glass window.”
The next day begins the community service for Frederick, as he realizes that he was the only one who was assigned to the home, everyone else was busy picking up rubbish and cleaning the streets and parks. As he arrives, the nurse in charge shows him around the house. And last but not least, introduces him to the elderly that he was going to be in charge of.
“Now for the next 480 hours of your service here you are going to help Ms. Claude here with her daily routine,” says the nurse.
“Yes, such as helping her bathe and all, change her bed sheets, if you need assistance as in doing something only we can do, don’t hesitate to call us.”
As the nurse leaves, it was only Fred and the old lady in the recreation room and some others minding their own business with magazines and other elderly people.
“Hello there, my name is Frederick. Can call me Fred if you want to.”
“Hello Fred, have a sit down here and watch Tv with me.”
For the next few days, the routine was just about the same, watch tv, accompany Ms.claude for lunch, bring her for a walk around the garden of the home, every alternate weekends, Fred will change her sheets, from time to time Fred helps her in the washroom as well.
Ms. Claude was not crippled, but at times she just likes to be pushed around in a wheel chair. In Ms. Claude’s room, after Fred transfers her onto her reclining chair. Fred sits next to her.
“Ms. Claude, I’m sorry if I do not talk much and if I am boring you.”
“Why didn’t you get away on time?”
“I heard what happen to you, how you got yourself here.”
“I have my ways. So tell me the real story. You could have gotten away, but then? I’ve been alive for a long time now, as far as I know, you’re not the kind of person to shoplift. So tell me, what do you have to loose telling an old fart?”
“*smiles, clears throat* yes I could have escaped, but I helped the pregnant lady. I stayed by her side, making sure she is alright. Which she was.”
“I did not know what I was thinking. Just felt the urge of doing something stupid after I got dumped.”
“I have nothing to say dear, but thank you. For sharing with me dear.”
Enters the head nurse.
“Hey! Time for your nap Ms. Claude. You *points at Fred* get out of here” *head nurse walks away*
“Witch. C’mon, “*carries Ms. Claude onto the wheel chair*
“where you taking me?”
Fred brings Ms.Claude outside around the huge garden where at that time in the evening, there were a lot of birds, pigeons comes out, ducks swimming in the pond. They both settle down on the bench near the pond. Fred hands a bag or seeds to be fed to the starving pigeons.
“For?” Asks Fred.
“Bringing me here, I never get to feed the pigeons.”
“You’re welcome dear.” Says Fred.
“Fred dear, let me share with you something. Something that I regret doing that only me and my best friend’s son knew.”
It was towards the end of 1945, a city somewhere in Australia, in that city there is a saloon. It was your average looking saloon, the walls were well maintained. The equipment was up to date. The floors were filled with cut hairs. The seats were filled with mostly women customers doing their manicures and hair. At a certain chair, there was a customer in red;
“Sally, make sure you do my nails right this time, my hair too.. I’m getting married and I trust you not to make a mistake again like you did before.”
“Yes, Ms. Claude.
“It’s a good thing you knew how to cover it up.”
“I had to do something, I do not want to get fired over a petty mistake”.
“You messed up this woman’s hair Sally?” Asks the lady next to Claude.
“I was in a rush.”
“I should have gotten a free service,” said Claude.
“You should have,” said the lady next to Claude.
“And you are?” Ask Claude.
“Hello there, I’m Claude.”
From that day onwards, the two ladies hit it off easily and became the best of friends. They did almost everything together, the things best friends do. They both became bridesmaid at each other’s wedding. When they were about to deliver their baby, they were both there for each other’s. So were their husband’s by their side. Time passes fast as they children grew up and both family members became close friends. At age 72, Claude lost her husband and Susan was there to comfort her throughout the hard times. Few months after the loss of Claude’s husband, Susan as well lost her husband. Claude did the same for Susan, which was being by her side at all times, nursing her back to her feet. A number of months after the death of both of their husbands, they both decided to move into a little two room cottage. For them, it was the perfect solution seeing that they are both old and in need of company of each other. The did social activities together, having movie nights with their friends and etc to keep themselves occupied.
One day, Susan’s son Dave came to pay a visit at their cottage. Susan was out at that time, so Dave had Claude all to himself to have a private talk:
“Me and Karen(Dave’s wife), we are moving away from here. We’re moving to Queensland, I’ve got a job promotion there and I want mother to move in with us.”
“But the truth is… you need to know the truth.. mother is not well actually.”
“She’s actually on borrowed time, we went to the doctors the other day, told the doctor not to reveal the results to her but to me instead.. she has cancer, it looks like it has spread towards her vital organs. We want her to be with the family.. “
Dave suggested to Claude what she should do to make the move work.
Later that day, when Susan got home;
“Susan, I have some news to tell you.”
“What is it?”
“My daughter, there is some complication with her pregnancy, as she is pregnant with twins. I just got the call today.”
“Oh dear~ is she going to be alright? What kind of complications?”
“She did not say, I guess she just does not want to make me worry.”
“*Claude continues* So, I’m going to move in with her, I just want to be there for her. Just in case. I’m moving in 2 weeks.”
“I understand my dear friend. “
“*Susan smiles* Funny. I did not get a chance to tell you this yet but I guess I let it out now. Dave ask me to move in with him as well, as he got a new job. And wants me to be there with him and his family throughout..”
On their last day together in the cottage, they cried, they hugged for one last time before going their separate ways. That was the last ever time, Claude will see her best friend again..
Back in the leisure lounge, where Frederick was listening tentatively to Claude’s story;
“Seven months later, I received a phone call from Dave. It was heart breaking to hear, Susan has passed away. I was too cowardly to tell her the truth, I prayed every day even though she is not with us anymore, to forgive me for what I have done. Everyone knew she was on borrowed time, but her,” explained Claude to Frederick.
“…., *sigh* I don’t know what to say.”
“Don’t need to say anything.”
“So what you’re trying to tell me is that, you regret what you did?”
“You have nothing to regret about.”
“For starters, I’m very sure she knew she was on borrowed time long before you or her son did. What you did, was a doing not to break her heart and I’m sure as hell that she did not want to break yours by telling you about her condition. Technically you did a favor for the both of you, so~~ you did for the best of both without even realizing it.”
The head nurse comes and tells Fred that his shift is up.
“Thank you for sharing with me. I’ll see you again tomorrow okay?” *Frederick hugs Claude*
Claude did not say anything back, all she did was just smiled back. The next morning while Frederick was getting ready to go for his shift, he got a phone call from the judge. The judge told him his punishment has been cut short, other words he had not need to go to the elderly home. Anymore. Without any reason.
It’s been five days since he had not gone back to the home, it was playing in his mind about Claude. That afternoon he went back to the home, to visit Claude. As he got to her room, her jewelry was arranged neatly on her side table. Her bed was neatly made up;
“She passed away yesterday evening,” it was the judge standing by the door telling Frederick.
“She did. She was taking her usual nap and just never woke up.”
Frederick just stood there, looking back at the judge. Listening to what he is saying.
“Why are you here?” Ask Frederick.
“I was going to call you, and tell you about her. I thought you may need someone by your side to go through this.”
“A judge who sent me on community service? You’ve got to be joking.”
“I have nothing to say~~ funny thing, she was the first ever, “supervisor” or “client”, she rang me up personally, I don’t know how, and told me to lighten your sentence. I guess she did see something in you,” explains the judge.
“*Frederick looks at the judge* Thank you.”
“I’ve authorized you to collect her belongings, while waiting for her daughter to arrive, since you seem to be the one closest to Claude. She’ll contact you once she has arrived. I’ll give you sometime alone for now.”
As the judge walks out, Frederick examines Claude’s belongings on her side table. As he looks through her things, he sees Claude’s ring. A ring that he never seen her wore before. The beauty of the ring was indescribable. Frederick pick up the ring and examines it even closer;
~ Based on a true story from an article in Women’s Day(Aust), dec,16,2002.
~ Names are changed.
~ Parts of the story are created and added together with the real facts/story to fit in with the story.