Through all the painting in her dream she never remembered hearing anything until the name "Libby" was mournfully whispered. It was then that she woke, and the memory of it lingered in her thoughts throughout the morning. Maybe she dreamt that she heard Libby's name after thinking about her the night before.
Libby was Norah's new friend that lived down the street. She was an 85-year-old lady who lost her eyesight when she was in her 30's. Norah's brother Paul met Libby when he volunteered for Meals on Wheels. Since his wife just had twins, he could no longer continue to visit with Libby. That is when he introduced the two of them.
Norah and Libby became friends at once, it was as if they had known each other forever. It was then that Norah took it upon herself to bring her groceries, and read to her a few times a week. One weekend she told Norah when she came to visit, "My child. Do things the moment they strike you. One day you may regret it if you don't."
"Oh Libby," Norah chided. "I am doing what strikes me at the moment, and that is reading to a dear friend. I don't think that I'm wasting my time when I'm spending it with you."
"But you are so young! You have so much to accomplish -- so much to do! I am just holding you back. Just forget about an old fool like me and find yourself a husband or a career." She reached down for her Seeing Eye dog Happy and gave him a good pat. In response he gave her a nudge with his nose.
"Okay," Norah teased. "but I guess you won't get to hear what happens with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy since I won't be able to finish reading this story to you."
"Oh... well! You can finish the book child, I want to hear what happens next!" They both giggled and Norah continued her reading of Pride and Prejudice. She couldn't imagine her life with out Libby and there was no way she would give up what little time she had to spend with her.
After a short while Norah asked her friend, "Do you have any family in town? I was just thinking we could have them over and I would cook dinner for everyone."
"Well I wish I could say yes, but sadly I have no family." She stood up after stating this and the dog looked up at her and whined. She made her way over to the kitchen where Norah was fixing lunch, and sat down on a stool by the counter that joined the two rooms. Happy wrapped himself in a ball at her feet, it was very rare that he left her side, since it was his job to help and protect her.
Norah's heart broke. "Paul told me you have a son. Doesn't he live around here?" She didn't mean to press the subject, but she was curious as to why she never heard Libby speak about her family, other than her husband that passed away many years ago.
"Well if you count prison as being around here, then yes. I have a son that lives around here." She smiled sensing Norah's surprise.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring up painful memories. I just thought it would be nice to get to know your family."
"Oh it's okay." She sighed and rested her elbow on the counter. "It's a long story how he ended up there, but basically he got into a rough crowd and they tried to rob a bank. Up until then, I thought he had more brains than people gave him credit for. I am not so sure now. It's a good thing that he never got married."
Norah spent the rest of the day with her and made sure that Happy had enough food before she went home. Her thoughts were filled with Libby's misfortune the rest of the night.
A few days later she received a phone call from Paul. His voice was shaky and sad. "Libby's in the hospital. I left Regina with the twins to come check on her. It isn't good."
"Oh my God! What happened?" Tears formed in her eyes as she tried not to imagine the worst.
"She must have had a mild heart attack in the middle of the night. She told them that Happy sensed something was wrong and brought her the phone, but she was in too much pain to call right away. He licked her face and hands until she could dial 911. My number was on the refrigerator and the hospital called me when she got there."
"Will she need surgery? Should I bring anything? What can I do?"
"They aren't sure if she needs surgery, but they are running tests. She's resting now, you should come see her." Norah left with out even showering. She didn't want to waste anytime.
Paul met her in the hallway when she arrived. His face was somber, and he sat down with her in the nearest chair. Before she could get a word out he grabbed her hand and said, "Libby passed away about 15 minutes ago. I am sorry you missed her, sis. I know how much you cared for her." Norah buried her face in his chest and let the sobs shake her body. She just lost her best friend.
The weeks to follow were slow and sad. Norah went to work every day with a heavy heart and could barely get through the billing of her clients. She thought often about what Libby had meant by doing whatever strikes you at the moment.
One morning on her way out the door to work a man stopped her. "Are you Norah Winderheim?" He asked. "I am Mr. Auding the executor of Libby's will." She acknowledged the fact that she was indeed Norah Winderheim and invited him inside. After calling work to tell them she would be late, he got straight to business.
"I didn't know that Libby had a will Mr. Auding, you know her only family is a son in prison?" Mr. Auding didn't really care. He didn't even know Libby that well, he had only been hired to take care of her will. She felt that it was a little impersonal.
"Well you will be pleased to know that she had you and your brother in mind when she wrote this will. Your brother has already been contacted and his children will receive most of the money that she has saved over the years. Mrs. Felder wanted to make sure they had enough money to go to college one day if they wanted to."
"How sweet of her!" Norah thought, then listened to the rest of the will. Libby left the house, the rest of her belongings and Happy to her. When they were finished, Mr. Auding made sure to give Norah the keys and the title to her property and left.
Norah took the rest of the day off from work and went over to Libby's house. There were wedding pictures and baby pictures that Norah would stop and cry over. Clothes and other personal belongings that she would eventually need to pack up and give to charity crossed her mind as she tried to get a better glimpse into Libby's past.
As she was going through some things in the bedroom Norah noticed an artist's sketchpad on the top shelf of the closet. She sat down on the bed with it and began to flip through it. Each drawing had Libby's name and date printed neatly in the corner. "She was an artist before she lost her eyesight?" Norah thought.
There was a faded letter between some of the pages to Libby from her husband:
|My Dearest Libby!
I love the drawings you send to me. The guys in my troop get a kick out of them too. You have such a great talent. I wish you would spend more time on your painting than you do writing letters to me. Take the time you have now so the world will be able to see how great you really are! I know you said we have all the time in the world, but I may die in this war, and I just want you to do whatever strikes you at the moment, otherwise you will regret that you wasted your time writing letters to me...
The letter went on in normal love letter style, but grief overwhelmed her so much that she could no longer read on. Libby said those very words to her just days before her passing. Was she going to share these intimate details of the past with her?
Norah decided to explore the attic to see if Libby's husband kept any of her paintings for sentimental reasons. In the corner of the room were many paintings, but the one that struck her right away was the painting of the young girl posed elegantly against a solid blue background, and the name Libby Felder printed in small white letters in the right hand corner.