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“Cinnamon and Peppermint”

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The sun is rising; a great orange orb of light in the pale pastel sky overhead. My head is bobbing on the glass window, the smell of gasoline filling my mouth and lungs. I pull my body up from the uncomfortable position I am in and situate myself on the cheap scarlet seat, faded and cracked around the edges. A slight vibration in my jean pocket startles me; I take out my cell phone and read the screen: “Home” it blinks in bold letters. I hit ignore and put the phone away.

Home is calling me. Home wants me back. Home. I am supposed to be home. Home is like a promise. A promise of protection, stability, and love. Endless love. Unfaltering love. Love that never ends. Home is where the heart is. There’s no place like home. But home has broken its promise. So I am not going back. Ever.


My thoughts are interrupted when the bus comes to a sudden halt and three new passengers come on board. I do not pay any attention to these newcomers but begin staring out of the dusty window.


“Hi girly,” a loud voice calls beside me.


I give a slight wave as the older woman plops down on the seat next to me and starts rummaging in her bright pink handbag. I return to the window, attempting to get lost in my own thoughts again. But I am disrupted by the woman’s incessant chatter:


“Can’t believe it’s morning already. Woke up at five a.m. so I could be ready to catch this damn bus. Made a pull in my pantyhose, walking here. See?”


She points to a miniscule tare in the nylon right above her knee. I nod as she starts up again, spitting each word out so fast, I wonder when she has time to breath. Maybe she will forget to take in some air and pass out, and then I can have some peace and quiet.


“Ate a quick breakfast. Stopped at Frank Wagner’s bakery on the way to the bus station. Nice old man, Frank is. Been around forever. Wonder when he’s gonna go. Before me, that’s for sure. But we all have to go sometime, you, me. Won’t be around forever. No siree. That’s for sure.”


She keeps talking as she adjusts the straw hat, decorated with crimson tulips, that is resting on the mass of gray hair piled on top of her head. I ignore the woman’s speech and focus on her appearance. She doesn’t notice that I have stopped listening and just keeps speaking. She looks about sixty years old with frail and skinny arms, waving in the air as she talks. She is wearing white satin gloves to match her pale pink skirt and sweater set, complete with pearl buttons down the front. A mix of cinnamon and peppermint scent overpowers the smell of exhaust; it’s so strong.


“You know, honey?” she asks staring into my green eyes. I nod and pretend that I understand. She grins and starts up again.


“Only a twenty minute bus ride to my daughter’s house. Can’t drive anymore, arthritis won’t allow it. Doctor won’t either. He told me, ‘You better stop driving that damn blue beetle around this town, Auntie May!’ Oh here I am rambling on about arthritis and I haven’t even introduced myself!”


She sticks out her wrinkled hand, “May. You can call me Aunt May though. Everyone does.” I whisper, “Charlotte” and we shake hands. Her palm is really cold, which sends a shiver across my body. I pull my red hoodie tighter around me. Aunt May continues her one sided conversation. I look out of the window pane, squinting from the balloon of light floating in the heavens, which has grown brighter in the last five minutes.


Suddenly, the sound of her speech becomes quiet. I feel a cold hand on my shoulder and I turn around and face Aunt May.


“I am meeting my new grandson today,” she whispers, a serious tone in her voice.


“That’s great,” I mumble. She almost looks like she is tearing up and I feel a sort of sympathy for the woman.


“I wasn’t the greatest mom. Her dad…he, well let’s just say he wasn’t the best man. Not good to any of us. My baby girl left home the first chance she got. I wasn’t the greatest mom. She forgave me. Eventually.”


I give her a slight smile. This is weird, I think, it’s almost like…but no she couldn’t. I just met her. I glance around the bus; the majority of the passengers are reading. The middle aged man in front of us is sleeping heavily, snoring with loud intakes of breath. They don’t notice anything unusual or out of the ordinary. Calm down Charlotte. It’s just a coincidence. Just breathe. That’s it.


“Are you doing ok sweetie?” she asks.


“Mhmm,” I murmur and nod.


She continues her speech, “She love me though, my girl. I’m lucky she forgave me. She forgave the place. She calls it home now. Even after…well all of the bad stuff. There’s no place like home, Charlotte, you remember that, there’s no place like home.”


She stares at me with her soft blue eyes twinkling, but with a sort of sadness in them, way in deep, that not many people could see at first glance. But I see it. The sorrow and regret. Because I have seen it once before. My mom’s eyes looked similar when she tried to apologize. After he came. And after he left. I look away as the emotions fill me up, preventing me from thinking straight. I hurry out of the seat and mumble, “Bathroom,” as I head to the back. I lock the door behind me and just cry; long and wet tears. They fall like rain to the pale yellow tile, rain and sunshine, bad and good. My tears cease as I glimpse at the huge ball of light and hope shines in the blue sky. I leave the restroom and return to my seat.


It is after I sit down that I realize that Aunt May is not there. Neither is her pink bag or the faint scent of cinnamon and peppermint. I look around, scanning the seats for a straw hat, adorned with pink tulips. No hat. No Aunt May. I kneel on my seat and turn to talk to the man behind me.


“Did we make any stops in the last five minutes?” I ask. He shakes his head. “Did you see the woman that was sitting next to me? Where did she go?”


“Didn’t see no woman,” he grumbled. “You’ve been sitting alone.” I look away in shock and hear him whisper “Damn kids.”


I sit there for a few minutes and let the past events sink in. My astonishment is interrupted by a yell from the front of the bus, “Boston, MA.” I gather my belongings, a beat up blue backpack and my brown purse. I get off the vehicle and make my way to the ticket booth, where I scan the departures for New York City. My cousin lives there; I will crash there for a few days. The man in the booth smiles as I hand him a fistful of crumpled dollar bills and recite by destination.

“NYC” he says, “You live there?” I don’t respond. “Great place to live. Always moving. You glad to be going home? I would be. There’s no place like home, that’s for sure.”

I look up, surprised, and scan the man’s face. He is smiling, eyes twinkling and shining. How could he…? Why does he…? I don’t understand.
Although I was baffled by this repetition, the statement made me relive the past twenty-four hours, the fight, the bus, Aunt May and her regret filled eyes and I decided that this was not a coincidence. It was a sign. A sign that I should go… “Home” I said. The man looked at me curiously. “I want to go home. One ticket for Hartford, Connecticut, please.” And the great orange orb of light in the pale pastel sky overhead was shining. And I smelled a faint scent of cinnamon and peppermint and smiled.





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