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Its Time to Grow up
It’s Time to grow up
“Thanks for driving me home Mrs. Wright.” Isabelle called twisting her head around and waving as she walked up the stone pathway to her wide front porch. She ducked her head as she walked, so as not to get wacked in the head again by the branch from the birch tree in her front yard that always hung too low. Lillian, her friend from summer camp, had her head out the window of her mother’s baby blue Pontiac and was shouting to Isabelle.
Isabelle paused on the side walk, “what?!” she called. Lillian was running towards her with a purple messenger bag; her messenger bag.
“You forgot this,” the girl said handing it over, “bye Izzy! See you next summer!” she rushed at Isabelle, choking off her reply in a strangled hug. “Don’t forget to email me the instructions to how the braid that tribal bracelet,” she called as she dashed back to her mother’s car.
“I won’t,” Isabelle replied with a smirk, “as long as you remember to text me Luke’s phone number.” She smiled as Lillian flipped her hair back exasperatedly. It was the two friends’ trademark salute to each other they had picked up from watching Clueless at camp over the summer. With a final wave towards her friend, Isabelle spun and continued towards her house. She couldn’t wait to tell her mom of all the great things she did that summer, and all the people she’d met.
After hauling her over packed purple suitcase up the front steps, she knocked hard on the large mahogany door; and waited, and waited, and waited. She checked her watch, she’d been waiting for a solid four minutes. “It shouldn’t have taken this long for someone, anyone to answer the door” she realized. She left her bags on the porch and went around the house to the backyard. She figured her best bet was to go to the back door, as it was sometimes unlocked. It was locked today. She knocked for a minute, but couldn’t see through the window blinds into the room. Nervousness at not knowing if anyone was home growing, she ran to the side door into the garage; that was locked too. Padding back through the still wet grass, she considered any and all possibilities as to why no one seemed to be home. “Surely they knew I was coming home today,” she thought to herself.
Isabelle reminded herself that she and her mom wrote letters to each other every day while she was at camp, but that the last two weeks the letters from home seemed to be getting to her less often. She had initially blamed the postal service, but wondered if her mother simply stopped writing every day. Had she begun forgetting her daughter? Is that why no one was home when she returned from camp? “Had they moved away and left me?” she stood stiff with panic. Before she could sprint to the windows, to check that the furniture was still in the house she heard something; a car turning onto gravel. Someone was home!! She raced down the porch steps and sprinted over the stone path and grass to the beginning of her driveway. As soon as she saw the car that had pulled in she slammed to a halt. It wasn’t her mother’s flashy red Lincoln, but a dark red minivan. And even though she hadn’t seen the car in months, she knew exactly whom it belonged to; her Aunt Danielle.
She was so confused that she couldn’t do anything more than stare as her aunt pulled up in front of her and stopped the car, staring back at Isabelle with a strange awe. No, it wasn’t awe, it was concern. She looked regretful and pained. Isabelle was bewildered as to why she was here. Aunt Danielle doesn’t visit very often and no one had told Isabelle that she was coming.
The girl stood frozen as Danielle stepped out of the car and approached her. She had never seen her aunt look so drained. Besides her mother, Danielle was easily the sturdiest and most reliable of her relatives; and she had always admired that about her aunt. Never allowing others opinions to affect her; she had tried copying that quality her aunt possessed but never seemed to have enough wit, or charm, or poise. Now however, the woman looked anything but confident. There were dark circles under her eyes that were beginning to look like bruises, and the skin over her cheekbones seemed tighter; like she had lost weight. Her aunt’s shoulders were hunched as though she was supporting a great weight. This alarmed Isabelle more than anything else; her aunt Danielle had always seemed strong and confident. Now she radiated eternal exhaustion.
“Isabelle, sweetheart,” Aunt Danielle spoke sluggishly, “how are you honey? I forgot you were getting home today. How was camp? Thank goodness I forgot my wallet at your mom’s house.” She sounded like she had forgotten how to fake cheerfulness, “I’m about to go grocery shopping, would you like to go with me? Andy and Kenzie are waiting at grandma’s house. I was planning to pick them up and bring them home on the way back from the store,” She smiled wearily.
Isabelle stared blankly, “Why are Andy and Kenzie at grandmas? Where’s mom? What are you doing here?” Aunt Danielle’s smile fell and she sighed. She opened her arms out for Isabelle to be wrapped in but the girl didn’t approach the older woman. Danielle reached out and drew her niece into her arms. Isabelle allowed the hug but it didn’t comfort her; she had too many unanswered questions. “Auntie Danielle? What’s going on? Where’s mom? Why isn’t she doing the grocery shopping?”
“Izzy I think it would be better if we go inside first.” Isabelle’s impatience was growing but she let her aunt tow her inside before bombarding her with questions again. “Okay sweetheart, I’ll tell you everything you need to know but you have to promise, you won’t interrupt until I’m finished.” She spoke sternly. Isabelle only nodded, a knot of unease was growing in the pit of her stomach. “Firstly you should know that I’m here because your mom’s in the hospital. Don’t interrupt,” as Isabelle had already opened her mouth, “next you should know that she’s going to be okay-eventually. Her condition was very serious but she is stabilized now. The doctor said that she needs to stay in the hospital until she is strong enough to come home, so you, and your brother and sister, will be at grandmas until I can get everything settled with your mom. Then you’ll be coming home and I’ll be watching you until your mom is cleared and released to come home.” Isabelle stared at her aunt in horror.
“What happened to mom?” her voice shook with fear and anxiety. Her aunt gave her a reassuring hug, “apparently she has been complaining of lower back pain for that past year and a half. She never went to the doctor about it though, and last Sunday she collapsed at work. The hospital called grandma, who in turn called me.” Danielle spoke with a soft murmur.
Isabelle sat motionless staring at the far wall. Her aunts’ words wouldn’t sink in; she didn’t know how to process this information. The older woman drew her niece in for a hug and swept her long fingers over the girls’ cheeks; wiping away tears. “Everything’s going to be fine sweetie.” Danielle whispered kissing Isabelle on the forehead.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Isabelle cried. Danielle rose from her seat on the leather sofa and slowly walked to the kitchen, opening cabinets and the refrigerator. She started pulling different things together but Isabelle couldn’t focus on any of it; anxiety for her mom, and anger at being left in the dark were her sole focus now.
“Izzy, your mom will be okay. No one told you because it was your last couple days of camp, and because I had to be here for your mom, so I couldn’t pick you up early. I didn’t want to worry you needlessly.”
“Needlessly?” Isabelle yelled with and incredulous expression, “Mom is sick! She needs me! And grandma could have come to get me, or Andy! I should have been told, so mom wouldn’t be alone.” “Izzy your mom is not alone-“
“Don’t tell me she’s not alone!” Isabelle screeched. “Is anyone with her right now? I wasn’t there for her when she collapsed. I-I can’t just sit here when she’s-“
“ISABELLE!” Danielle roared. The girl sat stunned into silence as her aunt stared her down. Danielle’s eyes didn’t appear as glossed over anymore. The internal exhaustion was still evident, but something about her expression made Isabelle think twice about snapping back at her. She had that old stubborn fire beneath her weary gaze. That fire that made her aunt so terrifying, yet so admirable when she was mad. That glare had petrified Isabelle when it was directed at herself, and now a bit of it was. It wasn’t much, Danielle’s fatigue with the past weeks’ ordeal still clear, but it was there nonetheless. “You need to get a hold of yourself Izzy. You’re being ridiculous. Preaching to me about how you should have been there when your mom fell, won’t change the fact that she fell. It’s a good thing you weren’t there. No girl of your age should have to be scared like that.” She paused to take a breath. Walking over to Isabelle, she carried a plate of food and set it in front of her niece. “Now for heaven’s sake calm down. I won’t take you to see your mom unless you start behaving like the mature 13 year old I know you are.”
Isabelle sat quietly, ashamed of her outburst. She stared at the hardwood floor and tried to sit as still as possible as tears welled up in her eyes. She wouldn’t let them escape though. “I’m sorry Aunt Danielle. I just got so mad when no one told me. And I guess knowing earlier wouldn’t have changed anything…”
Danielle smiled warmly, “it’s alright Izzy. Now eat your lunch, then we can stop by the hospital to see your mom before grocery shopping-“then the phone rang. Danielle reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone. “Hello?” she asked with a troubled expression. She listened to the response for a moment then beamed and looked to Isabelle. “Izzy it’s your mom. She’s awake and wants to speak with you.” She said holding out the cell phone with a soft grin.
Isabelle reached for the phone, then paused; uncertain. Danielle gave her a reassuring nod and Isabelle took the phone. The young girl took a deep breath and raised the phone to her ear. “Hello? Mom? Is that you?”