We walked quietly through the village woods, fearing that our noise could spoil the insects' sweet singing or disturb the trees' secret conversations. The cool air was laced with the smell of rain, and a pretty canvas of light and shadow was drawn on the forest bed. Everything was still, mysterious, perfect. And with each step I felt my heart beat with childish anticipation; we were nearing the wishing well.
"Come on, you turtle, the well's just behind that tree," I whispered as I took Chris's hand.
"I don't see how anything could be special about this well of yours. Is this really the most interesting thing in the province next to your spectacular dive into the pig pen yesterday?"
That earned him a quick kick in the knee. He yelped. "For shame, city boy. You better pay proper respects to Mother, or she'll curse you with a thousand of your own public mud baths."
In that moment, the wishing well called Mother came into view. Its bricks were crawling with vines that looked like hands reaching into a treasure chest. Its bucket was covered in rust and moss, and nearly half of its tiled roof was lost to age. To me, it was a friend frozen in a time long gone.
Chris marched to the well and peered in. "Why do you call it 'Mother'?" he asked.
"Our elders say its because it holds every wish and prayer ever uttered by generations of villagers. It's almost like a hideout, an object to shelter a person from his fears. A mother, so to speak." I rested a hand on the well, and a sudden rush of emotion coursed through me. Anger, sadness, love, hope…it was like each burden and desire cast into Mother was seeping into me. I had forgotten the connection I held with the well. It held so much of me that it seemed like a second soul.
"I could make out tons of coins in the muddy water," he replied. "Anna, how many of your wishes had been granted by old Mother here?"
"Oh, not much," I said with a small laugh. "Many of the wishes I made were about impossible things. I had wished for the farmers to get the money they deserved from their crops. I had wished for the village kids to afford schooling. I had wished for poor villagers to have their own land to till." Sighing heavily, I continued, "Well, I guess in the end, the wishes I made and what happened to them don't really matter."
"Why not? Isn't that the whole point of a wishing well?"
"No. At least, not for us. Things are very harsh here in the province, Chris. Mother's really just a symbol of hope. A thing for us to hook our faith onto. When we want something to happen in our lives, we do all we can to achieve it. But when the circumstances get too tough, we often escape to this well and convince ourselves that all can be put into place by one wish."
Without looking at me, Chris said, "I haven't heard of anything more pretentious in my life."
I shrugged. "That's the whole charm of wishing wells, I suppose. They're as useless as things get, but we can’t do as well without pretending they work."
"Well, I just can't believe you let Mother hear all that," he answered. He then took a coin from his pocket, closed his eyes, and tossed it into the well.
Later, when I would ask Chris about what he wished for, he'd chuckle and say, "I had made the most important wish of all: that the well would actually make wishes come true."
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