He smiled at her,
and did not look away.
It had been so long,
so very long since she had been seen,
that the old woman had forgotten how to respond.
Most found themselves suddenly busy as they approached,
eyes like frantic butterflies,
landing on her filthy, shapeless clothes
(too many for the summer heat, too few for frigid winter)
or her shopping cart spilling over with scavenged treasures,
before quickly moving on,
their ears deaf as stone, especially if she asked for change
or something to eat.
Many crossed the street to avoid her,
or stared down at the cracked sidewalk as they hurried by.
But he stopped.
His eyes saw beneath the grime
the years and the years of pain.
Saw the loss that had scored her flesh like sun-parched earth,
turned her eyes milky-white and made her frail limbs tremble
even when she was still.
He saw past all that, to the maiden she once had been
in the garden with the tree and the great white serpent.
She began to cry.
It had been so long, she’d forgotten his name.
“Here,” the man reached inside his long leather coat
and dug out a small golden ball. He placed it in her hands and said,
“I was given this as a child, but it is yours.”
It wasn’t a ball but an apple.
Remembering Ladon who had watched over her and her sisters
for the first time in centuries, she smiled.
Lovely ox-eyed Hesperethousa looked up to thank the man
but he was gone.