Going Back

December 12, 2007
By Shelby Dollar, Lee Summit, MO

I scrambled through the unyielding rain, as it kissed my dirty face. Glaring up at the sky from under my damp hood, strings of hair stuck to my dark lashes as I blinked through the falling drops. Above me the sky was covered with dark colors dripping to the ground. Thankfully the rain was warm as it soaked my chewed up muddy jacket and pants. Thunder growled dangerously behind me, and the last thing I wanted was to get fried by lightning or something ridiculous like that. My hazel eyes flickered across the remote field, the grass swaying steady like the beat of my heart. I had to keep as far away as I could from that place, I was never going to go back. I can’t take it anymore, I’d rather pretend to be homeless than return there. No hard wind or hunger was going to sway my decision. The soft warm drops began to pound on me, making it hard to distinguish my surroundings as the wind blew hard in my eyes.

Squinting I spotted an old white farmhouse in that cute warm way, nestled among the greening tall grass. Faint light shone onto the wooden porch of the house, comforting and warm. Rubbing my bony shoulders I continued to weave through the tall meadow feeling the oncoming rain mat my ruffled black hair. The air had a rust tint to it as thunder cracked in the distance making me shudder. Hands over my head as if to protect it I ran to the covered porch, a haven.

I crept up the wooden steps hearing the dry creak echo with every light step of my worn leather boots. Careful to avoid the bright windows of yellow light I ducked before collapsing on the swinging love seat in the corner. Being out in that storm had really taken a toll on me. I shook my head of hair wildly, running my fingers through it.

Looking out to the scenery around me, every thing was misted with the blurring rain. The gravel driveway to my left was dark it’s craters transformed to little puddles. Everything was so quiet and peaceful, all the animals shying away from getting wet, returning to their families…except this one. I grimaced to myself taking off my coat to wring it out. The rain smacked the ground angrily, the wind swirling around me moving my grungy hair. I curled into a ball to keep warm, my clothes sticking to my small form. My stomach growled in high protest upon moving.

“ Ugh,” I murmured, holding it to silence the talking. “ Great,” I sighed rolling to my side in the small seat, hearing it creak as I did so. I needed to think of something to take my mind off food. My small hand edged to my neck, clasping about a tiny gold locket. I went to open it as my damp lids struggled to stay open. My consciousness rolled in and out as my muscles relaxed, too exhausted from the trip.

I awoke to hearing a woman’s fretting voice, muffled through the walls of the house. I sat up in the gently swinging seat, stumbling into the shadows of the porch. My breathing was shallow and scared as my dirty fingers brushed back a dingy chunk of hair. Ear pressed to the cool wood of the house, the smell of paint in the air I listened intently. Did they know that I was sleeping on their porch? My rough hands fidgeted nervously. Are they calling the cops on me? I swallowed the rising unease in my throat as my hand remained clamped to the locket. No, I don’t want to go back there.
Out from my borrowed shelter the storm begun to die down the gentle tapping of the rain subsiding to silence. Birds chirped happily, gleeful to be able to stretch their wings and fly. Over the winding hills a cop car inched towards the house, sputtering gray muck behind it. I felt my eyes widen as leapt from my seat and ran to the side of the house, heart crashing about erratically in my chest. They actually called the cops on me! My hand curled into a furious fist, turning the knuckles white. I stood pushed against the damp wood , peeking onto the grim officer as he walked up to the door. An obnoxious grumble rang out through the silence. Gah! I whipped around the corner to conceal myself, lurching into a ball to stifle the gargling argument my stomach had proposed. I glared down at my sunken belly.

“Why? Why now of all times?” I thought sarcastically. “ Well, I suppose when I get thrown in jail I can get something to eat there. Then we’d all be happy now wouldn’t we? Including my scary roommate.” Yeah, good try stomach but I don’t really feel like spending the night in jail thank you very much. Once I had gained the courage to peer around the corner again the officer had begun to recite something.

“ Are you Sarah Thoone?” the officer asked his tone grim. The woman nodded slightly, afraid of where the discussion was heading. The stout man cleared his throat, avoiding her questioning looks. “ I am sorry to report that at four o’clock this afternoon your husband, Joe Thoone lost control of his car. He veered into a telephone pole, loosing his life. His body is now at Sinclair morgue and needs to be removed as soon as possible tomorrow.” He paused eyes glued to the wood floor, his voice monotone. “ I’m sorry for your loss.”
Relief flowed in me for a mere moment glad that I hadn’t been caught. Color flushed my dirt caked face before my gut wrenched with sadness, making me feel sick. Sarah nodded eyes glazed over with shock. She didn’t look older than thirty, her light skin not yet touched with aging. Her long brown hair tied at the side, allowing it to fall about her delicate shoulders. Absentmindedly, her slender hand clasped her left, fiddling with the silver band on her fourth finger. Sarah watched in silence as the man drove away, her crimson lips thin and slightly open with a new fear. Grief tore in me like a knife as I caught tears run down her high cheekbones, her dark eyes looking up at the sky. Slowly she closed them, as her chest rose and fell bit by bit. Sarah’s mouth twitched and parted to release what I knew to be a choking sob. She quickly pursed her lips on her emotions, swallowing them down to throw up later in her own privacy, as a little girl’s voice rang out behind her.

“ Mommy?” Hastily she wiped away her tears and forced a shaking smile heading back inside the house. I slinked to the back window, avoiding the bright lights that searched the dark lawn. The screens had been left wide open allowing me to listen to the little girl.

“ Mommy? Where’s Daddy Mommy? I want him to see what I drawed” Her voice was innocent, carefree. She was a miniature image of her mom, dark curls bouncing as she ran to Sarah her small hand clutching the crayon drawing. Scooping her up in her tender arms she tried to smile at her daughter, but it broke halfway through.

“ Oh—it’s absolutely lovely Christi, Daddy… will love it,” Sarah’s eyes were lined with tears, her mouth twitching at ‘Daddy’. A warm tear rolled down my cheek leaving a dry trail behind. That girl looked to be only five years old and now… she’s without a father.

I slipped the locket off my neck, wiping away the grime on the outside. Prying it open there lay a picture of my long gone parents. My dark haired mom had her face pressed next to my chubby baby smile, grinning beautifully. My light haired, strong jawed father sat resting his hands around me and my mom, a content smile turning the corners of his defined lips. I glanced away from the frozen scene looking out to the refreshing sky, feeling like a layer had peeled away from me. I stole a peek back into the house, spotting Christi. She was scribbling away humming softly to herself as her tiny face leaned into the drawing consumed by her masterpiece. Meanwhile Sarah was making phone calls her slumping body turned away from her daughter, it occasionally would shake with what I knew was sorrow.

I tore myself away, leaning against the paneled house, holding my fractured memories close to me. My breathing quickened with grief of that night. I was only six and my parents had gone out to see a movie, leaving me with my pleasant grandparents. That evening was so enjoyable, I had spent the whole time watching movies and playing games with my grandma, my cheery grandpa cracking jokes here and there. We had been settling down for the night, my stomach full with ice cream and sweets, when it happened. A knock at the door with the news that I was never going to see my parents again, not even in their bed of death…. the car crash had been too horrible for an open casket funeral. Even though I was six it still slices deep seven years later.
I don’t think I would have ever moved on was hard to get over that if it weren’t for my grandma and grandpa, truly close family who had custody of me. My gray haired grandma would keep me busy with stories of how my parents had met or their humorous encounters while they were married. Those five years were rough but I was comforted by the fact that I wasn’t the only one who had felt this tremendous loss. My grandma was from my mom’s side of the family and she would be distressed for loosing her daughter. There were times when I was older and we would share a cry together, opening up to one another. She loved me like a daughter the way my parents would have wanted and I was grateful for that. As for my grandpa, he taught me how to play pool to keep me occupied and break the solemn tension. I smiled gently, remembering how he’d let me win a few just to make the game last longer. His twinkling gray eyes shining with pride as he applauded me for hitting the last ball in.
But at the end of my seventh year with them my petite and feisty grandma fell ill. Playing endless games with one another was replaced with frequent hospital visits. My grandpa accompanied me to visit her when she was sent to the hospital to recover from a recent stroke. I got to see how this affected my grandpa an optimistic individual, but with every passing moment he began to turn to stone. I knew in my gut what the outcome was going to be every time his weathered face morphed to a sorrow stare, his dry lips rubbing together, afraid—like Sarah. He watched my grandma inch closer to the grave, tight jawed and nervous to be loosing his loved one. I knew that what she needed was someone to be strong and to let her know that everything was going to be alright. To tell her not to worry about me, her cherished Ellie. Weeks I debated in my head whether to speak up and tell him this…but I didn’t, letting the fright of him hating me get the best of my courage.

A few days after I decided not to tell my grandpa, my closest family member died. I was heartbroken, for this was a whole different kind of pain I had not yet experienced. I remember the day we got back to the house and as I trudged down the furnished hallway I caught a glimpse of their bedroom. The light colored bed was left in perfect condition, made and free of dust as if she might just arrive on our doorstep one day. I recall slipping in and seeing all her clothes formal and casual, still on the wire hangers. All I could think of was of the body that would never grace those clothes ever again. I think I cried the hardest that day, wishing someone would come in and comfort me…no one ever did. Every daily routine I had ever done had always involved my grandma in some way and without her felt meaningless and hollow. When my grandfather and I ate in silence there still stood the empty chair, lonely and bare. I rarely saw my grandfather whom consumed by misery would lock himself away in his study only showing his face to make dinner.
I shuddered feeling the awkward, empty silence that we would share every meal. Neither of us would speak, too at loss for words of happiness. At times when I’d go to bed I would hear him through the walls, crying and saying “Why?Why?” over and over again. Things just got worse with each passing day…but one set my final decision to get out. It was two months ago, my tears had finally ran dry, I had thought that it was a day for change so I went to seek company with my grandpa. I grimaced feeling the full effect of the memory.

“Grandpa?” I opened the door to his study timidly. There he sat slumped in his chair, sorrow in his glassy eyes. His hand was limply clutching a half empty bottle of whiskey.

“ What…is it..Ellie?” he slurred his eyes not finding me. My eyesight blurred with the tears, I couldn’t stand to see him like this…not now.

“ Grandpa,” I pleaded, coming over to him, attempting to save him from this spiraling mood. “ Why don’t you and I play some pool? Wouldn’t that be fun?” I shook his arm gently to get his attention.

“ No,” he murmured, still not focusing on me. I wasn’t going to give up that easy, I had to help him. I couldn’t let him pull me into his ditch of depression.

“ Grandpa…please, lets stop this.” I was begging him now, gripping his bony knee. “ Grandma wouldn’t have—”

“ Don’t talk to me about your grandma!” he snapped, those dead eyes finally catching mine. He pushed me away from him, becoming more vicious. “ JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!”I stormed out of the room, running upstairs to snatch all the cash possible. I could hear his drunk shouts from below as I shoved clothes into a backpack. No more was I going to suffer like this…I can’t deal with him despising me.
I snapped the locket shut, closing me mind to the fresh memory. Putting the necklace back I took one more glance at Christi and her mom. I felt like going in and letting Sarah know that everything was going to work out and to be strong for her daughter like my grandma had for me, but I don’t think that would go too well. I examined my attire, taking in the dirty nails and mud smeared clothes wondering how I looked to someone else. I thought better of it, she didn’t need some aimless child to stumble into her house handing out advice like business cards. She was going to hold out just fine, she knew what needed to be done for her daughter. Sarah had a determined air about her, being there for her daughter wasn’t going to be an problem.
I sighed, far away someone else needs me to cry on and help them work out their issues. This time I’m not letting down, even if he does end up hating me. I hoped up and scampered through the lush yard smelling the cool air as it blew my oversized coat this way and that. Shoving my hand into the pocket it sorted hastily through the miscellaneous junk, snatching spare change, anxious. The main road wasn’t far as I pumped my legs, trampling the tall weeds, and splashing through the puddles. I glimpsed back at the white house, running a silent prayer in my head thanking them, closing my damp eyes for a moment. I turned back to the oncoming road feeling that bitter shell fall away, hold on grandpa… I’m coming home like it or not.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!