Stephanie awoke with a shiver as the coolness of the misty morning crept into her body. The house was eerily still and quiet. She quietly slipped from her bed and put on her jacket and boots. Grabbing the umbrella from the corner stand she stepped out into the cool morning. Everything looked dreary to her, the colors so vibrant in late spring now cast ghostly shadows in the cool morning. The sun had yet to make an appearance, she hoped it would cheer up the day. She walked alone the ground crunchy beneath her feet. As she walked the events of the past week came to haunt her thoughts. A lone bunny hopped across her path, it turned as if to say something. It sat still watching her as she slowly approached. the crunching of the ground echoing through the silence.
The two stared at each other as they shared a moment in time. Could the rabbit be as lonely as she? She looked down and spoke quietly, "sweet little bunny, I have no treats for you but if you see me later I will give you a juicy carrot." The rabbit twitched its nose as if to say "thank you" and he hopped away. She continued her walk in silence. her thoughts weighing heavy on her heart. Her husband was gone. The letter from the war department telling of his heroic acts still sat crumpled in her pocket, she had read it so many times over the past week, it had become worn and soiled with tears. The life they had spent years planning now gone. She was not sure how she would ever go on without him. The cool air and mist now became a more steady rain and the air temperature dropped further. She began to head back to the house her head hanging low, fresh tears now coursing down her cheek once more.
As she reached the back door to the home she shared with her husband of three years the house seemed to groan as much as her heavy heart did. Her hand held tight to the doorknob wet and cold making it hard to turn, she looked down as she reached for a rag to wipe the slippery handle. She exclaimed as she saw the bunny once more "Oh my! You did come for your carrot after all didn't you" She opened the door and stepped in and the bunny quickly hopped in the house behind her. Both now safe from the cold rain that had begun as she walked back to the house. She reached into the refrigerator and grabbed the biggest carrot she could find and set it before the rabbit.
Stephanie had never seen a rabbit so eager to get inside a house before, usually they shied away from humans. This must have been someone's pet that got loose. She decided it would be a good distraction to give the bunny a warm home until she could find it's rightful owner. She pulled out a head of lettuce and place it into a small bowl, got a box that she left on its side to leave the box open for the bunny to come and go as it pleased and placed a soft warm blanket in the box and a bowl of water beside it. The bunny dragged the carrot it was eating into the box and made its bed quickly in the warm blanket. She found herself smiling and laughed as the bunny seemed so at home in it's makeshift bed. The bunny lifted its cute face and twitched its nose at her as if to say "thank you".
Weeks went by and the bunny continued to come and go as it pleased, during the day it would go outside when she opened the door in the mornings and would be on her doorstep again in the evening to share her evenings with her and snuggle in his new warm bed. She spent hours talking with the bunny, telling him all of her hurts, sorrows and fears. The bunny would snuggle deep into her arms and seem to listen as it laid still, its soft fur a comfort to her as she spent hours petting and holding him.
One day many months later a small child came knocking on her door. Stephanie opened the door and smiled at the child, "how can I help you?" she asked softly. The little girl with eyes a deep blue looked up "I have lost my bunny, 'Mr. Whiskers' the man at the pet store said you told him you found one, may i see if it is Mr. Whiskers, please?" The girl looked up at her with such hope that Stephanie said "of course, wait there I will get him". The little girl squealed with expectation, looking over her shoulder she shouted, "Daddy she has a bunny, she said I can look, Oh Daddy I just know its Mr. Whiskers". The sound of such joy gripped Stephanie's heart as she walked into the house. Her heart filled with mixed emotions. How could she give up her beloved bunny who had listened as she poured out her heart, who had comforted her those many lonely days and nights.
Stephanie picked up the bunny and carried him to the doorway. She was surprised to look up and see Jeremy, her old boyfriend from high school. He was obviously married and had a beautiful little girl. She was happy for him. "Jeremy? she asked". "Stephanie?", he answered. The next several minutes were spent in excited chatter about what had happened since high school. She told him about her husband, a marine, who had died in action saving the life of those under him. She was proud of him, had always been proud of him and always would. Jeremy told her how his wife, Jenny's mother, had died in childbirth four years earlier. They shared a sadness that no one else could comprehend. She asked them both in and Jenny sat there cuddling her long lost bunny. "Mr. Whiskers, don't ever run off again!" she scolded. Stephanie and Jeremy just laughed. It was in that moment that Stephanie understood her husbands last letter about how life goes on and so must she if anything were to happen to him. Perhaps it was time to stop grieving and start living again. Perhaps it was time for the sun to come back into her world once again.