“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”― Albert Einstein
Thea Dillon was a most unpleasant child. She was a demanding and opinionated young girl about whom her parents worried incessantly.
Sunday’s was church day and the family would dress in their finest and traipse off down the hill to the little church that served the faithful of their town.
Thea would argue with her parents each Sunday morning about what clothes she might wear. Nothing ever seemed to be right for her. If the blue was suggested she decided it had to be the green. Though the one colour that she favoured above all others was the red.
It was like a ritual the family went through to the point that both parents began to dread the Sunday morning petulance of their daughter.
Her father used to stand back at her bedroom door and tell her about the little girl on the other side of town who would have done anything for the clothes that Thea was so picky about.
‘Susie Noshoes,’ her father would say, ‘Has no shoes. She is very poor and has to go about bare footed as her parents cannot afford to buy her shoes.’
Thea was never interested in these stories as she was focused on getting her own way all the time. She thought they were guilt stories, little more than fairy tales told to entertain her and she had no time for such triteness.
It was after a particularly tiresome Sunday morning where Thea had kicked and screamed and refused to wear what her mother had put out for her that her parents headed for church locking the house and leaving Thea at home. They had done all they could and their difficult daughter could stay in her room until they returned as they had had enough of her petulance and bad behaviour.
Thea lay on her bed and contemplated her morning. She was never left at home alone. Her parents usually gave into her and let her wear what she wanted, but today they had stood up to her and left her at home, locked in the house.
There was a knock on the front door. Then another.
Thea thought at last here was something to do even if it was to answer the door and shoo away the pesky callers who often wanted something or other.
She opened the door to find a small girl standing there. The girl was very bedraggled in appearance; she had on no shoes and had the biggest blue eyes Thea had ever seen.
The girl looked at Thea and asked if she had any food to spare.
Thea had heard her parents on occasion answer the door and then give what they could to the increasing number of beggars who seemed to be knocking more frequently than ever.
Thea wasn’t having a bar of beggars on a Sunday morning. She slammed the door. That should teach her she thought to be coming round here to beg.
Now thought Thea those chocolate biscuits her mother had bought yesterday were suddenly more tempting than ever before.
As she made her way to the pantry she heard the knock on the door again.
This time Thea peered through the side window and saw the same small raggedy girl standing there.
Sensing this girl was in need of a right royal Thea telling off she opened the door and launched into a tirade of abuse only to find the girl was no longer there.
Thea was taken aback, she was there a second ago. How could she have vanished so quickly?
She closed the door, her mind going back to the chocolate biscuits.
She turned round to find the girl standing in the middle of her lounge room.
‘Who are you, what do you want?’ Demanded Thea.
‘Normally you are not home,’ the girl explained. ‘I watch you go to church and then I come in.’
‘Why? How?’ Thea was feeling very furious at this stage.
‘The key in the laundry is always there for me to use.’
‘Who told you about the key? It’s there for emergencies only.’
‘Your dad told me. But he always said to knock first in case someone was home. So today like every Sunday I knocked. I was surprise to find you here, but I expected one day you would be.’
‘What do you do in my house?’ Thea shrilled.
‘I eat mostly; sometimes I look at your clothes. You have a lot of beautiful clothes. I once tried on your red dress, I think that’s my favourite.’
Thea quickly tried to think of any occasion where she had thought someone had been in her room or when she’d heard her parents say there was any food missing or crumbs or anything that suggested this girl had been in their house. But nothing came to mind.
Thea turned to the girl; her anger was now at a high she had never experienced before. ‘You are never to come into this house again, nor are you to ever speak to me or pretend to anyone that you know this house. My parents I now understand are as crazy as I always thought they were. How would they allow an urchin such as you into our house? You are dirty, your clothes are filthy, you are disgusting.’
The girl turned to go, taking a biscuit from a pocket in the side of her dress. As she bit into the sweet biscuit Thea saw a twinkle in the girls eye. The girl stepped towards Thea and opened her hand to reveal a small green stone.
‘This is my most prized possession. I’d be happy if you had it. I know you have so much and I have little. I live in a place where my parents struggle day in and day out to provide for us, but we know about sharing and we know about gratitude.
I have been coming to your house for a long time. I have never taken anything that was not mine. All I take is some food from the cupboard that your father knows I take. But I see your indignation, I sense your anger, I know you will never be a friend to me. I always planned to offer something when it was discovered I had been here. All I have is this stone, if you look into it you see kindness, you see love, if you look long enough you begin to understand gratitude.’
The girl then pressed the stone into Thea’s hand and left the house.
Thea stood there a moment speechless. She looked at the stone and wondered who this strange girl had been.
She heard the front door open and her parents came in chatting about one thing and another.
Thea was standing there still in her pyjamas. She looked at her parents who were surprised to see daughter there speechless and looking somewhat perplexed.
In the next ten minutes she blurted out the tale of her morning, of the strange girl and finally the green stone.
When she had finished her father smiled at her, came to his daughter and embraced her. In doing so he said, ‘So I see you met Susie Noshoes.’
At the sound of her name Thea felt the stone warm in the palm of her hand.