I walk in the twilight, alone. My feet crunch over gravel. Wind blows over the barren fields, colder than I expected. The seasons are changing and I’m headed back to my car without the warmth of my dog. Seems like a mistake to leave him but still I walk away. It’s like that sometimes. You do something without really knowing why but inside you know you have no choice.
I feel like ghosts are speaking in my mind. The voice of my father laughing as he puts a wig on a scarecrow like in the photo Mammy showed me. Another one with him on a porch swing with my mom, had to be no more than sixteen. I saw him at all ages, smiling, a light in his eyes. He lost his parents at some point but clearly he grew up in a happy home, had a good life, a better life than I. We look so much alike, seeing his image, I see what could have been for me. Could have, but wasn’t. Did it matter anyway? It didn’t save him, or make him any less able to handle what life threw his way.
Mom is looking out the window when I walk up the driveway. She comes storming out the door.
“Where have you been?”
I don’t answer. She stares at me until I see it in her face, she considered the possibilities and came to the right conclusion. She starts walking back toward the house.
“Why didn’t you tell me about Mammy?” I call after her. “And Dad.”
“What’re listening to a half dead woman for? Whatever she told you is a lie. Now come on inside and have some dinner. You’re not sleeping in that car tonight. It’s going to go below forty.”
“I saw pictures. There’s no point in lying.”
She stops and turns around. “All that is in the past where it should stay. Do you understand?”
“No. The past, the present, it’s all connected. Why didn’t you tell me about Dad? Help me understand what was going on? Why did you let me hate him?”
“You look at a few photos and figured it all out did you? Painted a nice rosy picture. Did sweet Mammy tell you how she kept us apart? Said I was a bad influence because she found out my brother picked us up a bottle of JD. Little did she know that her precious orphan drank most of the bottle. I didn’t do that to him. He did it all on his own. Anyways I don’t have to explain myself to you. Do what you want.”
She goes back in the house, slamming the door. I stand there. Liam’s face pops up in the window. His eyes wide, too serious for a kid his age. My phone beeps. A text from Anne. I turn away and type an answer to her question.
You’ve been silent all day.
Met a friend of my dad’s who knew him when he was a kid.
A few seconds later, the phone rings.
Anne listens as I tell her about Mammy, the photos, the stories. She says there is always more than what meets the eye. She insists I come to her place, sleep on the couch, that the cold will not help me heal.
I was going to refuse Mom if she tried to coerce me into sleeping in the house, but I don’t refuse Anne. There’s more than just a thermostat to keep me warm where I’ll spend the night.
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