Everyone who knew Martha ignored her because of what they’d been told about her, but her lonely fate changed one day when a little boy approached her.
Martha was unusual. She knew it, and so did everyone who lived in the quaint little town she moved to after losing her life savings to a con artist.
When she first arrived in town, Martha avoided any attempt to socialize with the townspeople, and eventually, they took the cue and stopped trying to be friendly with her.
“She’s such a snob,” they would whisper behind her back while she pretended not to hear.
Martha was well aware of how her neighbors saw her, but she could not be bothered to even care. If she had her way, the woman would rather be invisible so nobody would have to bother her ever again.
It was not that Martha hated people; on the contrary, she had always been a social butterfly until tragedy befell her home, claiming her family in the process.
Martha, at 30, lost her two sons and husband in a house fire explosion that left very little of them to bury, and what’s worse, she was the prime suspect.
It took a lot for her to be able to prove her innocence, and by the time she did, all of her friends and extended family already believed she was responsible.
After she was absolved of all criminal allegations in a court of law, Martha decided she would uproot herself and find a new place to start over even though she had only meager savings left after settling with her lawyer.
That was how she made her way to the small town she now lived in. It was beautiful and quiet, two things Martha liked, so she decided to remain.
At first, she rented an Airbnb where she spent several weeks, then she moved to an apartment owned by a nosy woman named Deborah.
Deborah prided herself on being the one-stop shop for fresh gossip in town, so she was very excited when Martha approached her to rent an apartment.
“Of course, I have a place just for you,” she said, then led Martha to a medium-sized room with flimsy decoration.
“Thank you,” Martha said and Deborah waited for her to say more. When it was clear she wouldn’t, the gossip moved closer.
“Are you a fugitive?” She suddenly asked out of the blue.
“What?” Martha asked.
“Well, people say you keep to yourself and you almost never speak. I’m a movie bum myself and all of that just screams fugitive,” Deborah replied brazenly.
“I’m sure you’ll figure it out eventually,” Martha said, the hint of a wry smile touching her lips.
The widow spent two weeks in the house before she was kicked out by Deborah, who resented her for always keeping to herself. Martha had nowhere else to live, and nobody else in town would take her in. She could not leave either because she had eventually run out of money and was stranded.
It was the holiday season, and snow had started to fall, signifying winter. While everyone else enjoyed the festivities, Martha was focused on surviving.
She slept where she found shelter and ate whatever was edible, living for a week as a homeless person. Sometimes she would take refuge at the town church, and other times in makeshift shelters she fashioned out of boxes.
One day, she was freezing as she sat on a bench thinking about how her life went sideways so quickly. Lost in her sad thoughts, she didn’t notice the snow had covered her until she looked like a big snowman.
The sight caught the eyes of young Tommy, who was in a car with his parents. He was a peculiar young boy whose parents had been trying their best to get him to speak since he was born.
“Nothing is wrong with him,” the doctor had told his parents after Tommy refused to cry even after getting spanked. “You just need to give him time and things will be back to normal in no time.”
That had been five years ago, and up till then, nothing had changed. Tommy still had not uttered a single word, forcing his parents to accept that they may never hear him talk. They tried all they could, but their boy never spoke.
That day, they were returning to their home on the outskirts of town when the boy noticed the old woman and gestured to her parents.
“What is it Tom?” His mother asked, curious about what was making her typically reserved son feel so worked up.
He pointed at Martha again, so his parents looked at each other, shrugged, then stopped the car some meters away from the motionless woman who sprang to life as soon as her eyes focused on the little boy who was now standing in front of her, his parents standing behind him.
He reminded her of her late child, and she immediately welled up in tears. “It’s okay,” the boy grunted, unused to making syllables with his mouth but well aware of how it was done.
His parents were shocked by what they had heard and immediately wanted to know more about the woman who got their son to speak.
“How did you do that?” the man asked her.
“Do what?” Martha asked as she wiped her tears, one hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“He never speaks,” Tommy’s mother said, still shocked.
Filled with so much hope, Tommy’s parents took Martha in after that and gave her a job as their son’s nanny. With her help, their boy started to speak, doing it so often that anyone would have trouble believing that he had been silent for his first five years on earth. Martha remained with the boy’s family, taking care of him, and eventually, she became a permanent fixture in their home.
What did we learn from this story?
Respect boundaries set by other people. Martha was adversely affected by the tragedy that befell her family and its aftermath, which is why she changed her location. However, living was tough for her in a town where everyone seemed to know everyone.
None of them wished to respect the boundaries she was laying down, but because Martha gave them no choice, they had to. Still, they didn’t like that very much, which is why they chose to turn their backs on her. They could have made life easier for her by simply respecting her boundaries and letting her decide when she wants to get involved.
Be slow to judge. When Martha was suspected of killing her own family, her friends and siblings were quick to judge her as the perpetrator even though the cops only suspected her. That blow was one of the reasons she fled after the case was resolved. Do not judge people without giving them the benefit of the doubt.