Outside rain fell almost like tears down Rianne's bedroom window. A dreary looking Saturday matched her frown.
"Honey?" Mother's voice curled up the stairs. "Breakfast. Have I got a surprise for you."
Six-year old feet thundered downstairs. Rianne wondered if her favorite strawberry pancakes were waiting.
And they were.
"Okay if I go for a walk outside?" the little girl asked later.
"In the rain? Her mother gasped. "Well I suppose. We can go together, then."
"I want to go by myself," Rianne said. "I'm not a baby anymore."
"Well, alright," her mother said.
They had three beautiful acres of woods out back with a tiny creek and pond in the middle. "Wear your raincoat," she said. "Now, let's eat."
Even after moving here a week ago, Rianne still had a difficult time. A little walk might be good for her daughter. But mother would keep a close eye on her from the house.
Her trusty binoculars would help.
As soon as the little girl headed out the back door, her mother ran upstairs. From the spare room window she could see everything.
Rianne sat on her wet swing and kicked at the sand. She noticed a movement in the tree high above her.
"It's not polite to stare, young lady," said a shrill voice.
"Who-Who's that up there?" Rianne asked.
"Hoo-Hoo, yourself. Haven't you ever seen an owl before?" Then a pile of feathers with claws and wings settled on the ground at her feet.
A worried mother swung her binoculars back and forth, between daughter and owl. It wasn't going to bite her, she hoped.
"Why are you all alone?" the owl asked. "With all this space, and a beautiful swing set, you should have lots of friends."
"I have no friends," Rianne sadly answered.
"Not even one teensy little caterpillar?" the owl questioned, as his head bobbed from side to side.
"Not even one huge elephant?" the owl asked again.
"No. No. No." The little girl said, getting upset. "Nobody likes me."
"I'll be your friend," a bushy red squirrel squealed from beside her feet. He jumped up on the swing beside her.
"Now, you have two friends," said the owl.
Rianne jumped off the swing and walked to her tree house. She wished she had a human friend or two to share what she had.
The owl flew alongside then fluttered to the ground, blocking her path. "You're very pretty."
"No, I'm not."
"Come with me to the creek," the owl insisted. "And look closely in the water. You'll meet a friend of mine."
"She looks like me," Rianne said, bending down. "Hey, you tricked me." This time she was smiling.
The owl was pleased with himself. Bushy red jumped up and down with happiness.
"Do you think it will rain all day?" the owl asked.
"I suppose so," the little girl answered.
"Do you think it will rain forever?"
"No. No. NO!" Rianne said impatiently.
"Good. Then there's hope for more of your smiles." He was a wise old owl, and very patient, too.
"Sit beside me and listen carefully," the owl asked.
Rianne's mother was now leaning over the balcony, trying to get a better view.
"Can you hear the loons?" the owl asked. "They're in your little pond right now behind those tall trees."
Rianne raised her head and heard a faint wailing, as if someone was crying. Their sounds were sad like the day she left behind all her old friends.
She had cried for a long time. That memory made her sad right now.
Bushy Red jumped up on her lap.
The owl flew down to the ground and leaned against her.
Just then a family of adults and children stopped their car in front of her house. "Mom! Dad! Look at that little girl! She's a friend with a squirrel and an owl. Can I go talk to her? Can I, huh?"
More neighbors arrived in the driveway to welcome their new arrivals. By now Rianne's mother had joined the crowd. She proudly pointed out her daughter, sitting with an owl and a squirrel.
Some began to take pictures.
Riannne was enjoying the attention. She scratched under Bushy Red's jaw and carefully patted the owl. A shy smile forced open her lips.
By now the sun had chased away the clouds, and wet leaves and grass became warm and dry again.
The little girl felt much better.
From the pond beyond the trees, chuckling sounds rose and fell across the sky. It sounded like laughter.
"The loons can also make happy sounds," said the wise old owl. "Each family usually has two baby chicks and they are loved very much."
When Rianne prepared for snooze time, she gave her mother a giant hug. She now had friends her own age who promised to visit again.
Looking out her bedroom window, she thought about what she learned from the wise old owl. She didn't feel alone any more.
Someone besides her mother loved her.
And Rianne knew she was pretty, too.
She danced around her room, then rushed to the window. She blew kisses at the owl and the squirrel, out there somewhere.
Then Rianne jumped into bed.
Tomorrow, she would work on her smile.
* * *
Richard & Esther Provencher
My wife, Esther and I really enjoy writing. It is an excellent salve, in addition to prayers, a great wife and family during my continuing recovery from a stroke/aneurysm. You can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.