I looked through the pictures of my first day of school, and my 6th birthday party. I closed the book to take a break and walk to the store to find something to eat. I stood up and walked out the back door again and locked it. I walked down the street, reminiscing the days of bikes and roller skates down the sidewalk. Bobbie’s tree house was still intact behind the Miller’s house. I smiled, “Those were the days.” I sighed.
I came to the street corner where I had broke down many years ago and stared at the grass, thinking maybe my imprint could still be seen in the grass. I crossed the street and made my way to the supermarket.
As I walked down the aisles, I recalled the hot summer days Paula and I would gladly come down here for daddy just for the air conditioning. We would stand by the meat coolers and frozen aisle until we were shivering and then make our way back into the sticky Louisiana air.
I grabbed a few things and brought them to the clerk. She just smiled, but she was so familiar. I would have never known who she was though, I left this town when I was 13. And that was now 9 years ago. I paid for my things and walked back to the house.
Just then, my cell phone rang. It was my mother, that would be foster mother, and yes, we still keep in touch on a daily basis.
“Yeah I am ok. Just doing a little research mom…. I know…. I will…” I said as I flipped the phone shut.
She still treated me as if I was 13, the age I was when I was brought into her home. Shivers went down my spine as I thought about it. I never wanted to relive that day, but I knew I would.
I walked back into the house and sat down at the dining room table again. I finished my lunch and reopened the photo album. I smiled when I was faced with a picture from my 12th birthday. I was such a homely child. Long dark curls that did what they wanted. Scrawny body and braces. I chuckled at the unattractive sight.
Looking at the clock I realized it was finally time to check into the hotel. I called a cab and grabbed a few more albums and proceeded out the back door again.
Once again I looked at the backyard with sorrow, I walked over to the swing that my father had built so many years ago and sat down. “I can’t believe this made it through all these years.” I whispered as I bounced a little to test the strength of the ancient ropes.
[i]“Girls, come on outside! I have a surprise for you both.” Daddy had said. Paula and I bolted for the back door anticipating a pony or a puppy or even a tree house like Bobbies. That’s when I saw it… our very own swing! I remember being so excited. Of course Paula and I fought a little over who got to swing first, but eventually we both had our turns. We stayed out there until daddy called us in for dinner.
Paula and I gobbled our food down, I don’t think I even chewed it. I just remember I wanted to get back out to the swing. Daddy worked very hard on it, since the tree we had out back was not as elderly as most in the neighborhood, he had to hang it on a higher, stronger limb. It was a simple home-made swing, but to Paula and I, it was high class.
Paula and I took turns soaring through the air until the sun finally set. Giving the neighborhood that warm, relaxed yet quiet, eerie feel. Daddy called us back inside for bath time Well bath time for me, Paula was a big girl so she took showers. Some day I would too, but I really liked my toys and bubbles. [/i]
I got off the swing and walked around to the front of the house, looking at it once more with a sigh. How could it have been abandoned like that? It was such a beautiful house and now it was nothing more than a pile of rotting wood. But I knew that the town was small, and nobody ever bought it after the incident. That’s why I came back. I decided to buy it from the city and fix it back up. With all the memories the house held, I knew that I was the only one to appreciate it in it’s pathetic state.
As I pulled away in the cab I once again felt the sorrow in this town. For some reason everything looked so sad, so tired. The houses that were once vibrant in color and well kept, were now leaning over, almost begging to be free. The yards that once had bright flowers and white fences were now shaggy and full of garbage. The city, once small, active and secluded, became a suburb of the larger city that over the years expanded. It wasn’t the nicest area, and most of the people who lived here were lower class. It seems that the less money some people have, the less they care about what their homes look like… inside and out.
It’s amazing how with time, things can turn around completely. I watched as the hotel came closer each second. My body was crying out for rest.
I looked around the lobby a little disappointed, this place was at one time huge to me. It was luxurious and it had the faint smell of an old man’s pipe. Now it was more rundown, the carpet that I stood on worn from the years, the pattern no longer traceable with bare feet. The walls yellowed with years and pictures faded from sunlight. The only smell now, was stale cigarettes and mold.
I made my way to the desk to check in. I handed the familiar woman my credit card.
“Michelle Lund? Is that really you? Do you remember me?” The lady asked. I just nodded my head, there was a faint recognition, but nothing my mind could trace back to.
“I’m Kathy! Nancy’s daughter…. we went to church together!?” The woman squealed.
I smiled slightly and nodded, “Oh yes. Long time, no see. How are you?”
The conversation drew on about the usual small talk, ‘What are you doing now-days?’ and ‘any kids, are you married’ questions. I tried hard to talk, but really I just wanted to lay down. My head hurt already from the day’s events.
“Michelle, you don’t need to stay here, you can come to our house and take the spare bedroom… FREE!” She said convincingly. “Mom and Dad won’t mind at all!”
I smiled and thanked her for the offer, but I knew there would be no privacy nor peace for a nap. “I think I will stay here, but thank you so much.”
Kathy nodded and waved so and I walked off to my room.
[i]I hated when Kathy came over, she was really nice and all but she stole all of Paula’s attention. Paula is -my- sister, this is -my- house, I would tell myself.
I usually just played out back by myself while they did their big girl things. You know like make-up and boys and phone calls… yuck. I sat in my sandbox, in my own little world of make-believe. Trust me, it was way more exciting.
Paula came out to get me for lunch, “Shell come eat. Daddy said so.”
I got up and dusted myself off and put my shoes back on.
Daddy knew that I hated any kind of green food, it was poisonous in my eyes. In all the cartoons when the bad guys drank or made poison it would be green. I pushed my green beans around on my plate.
“Princess, eat those, you need your strength” Daddy would always tell me. I’m not sure where they went because I would carefully place them under my plate or in the centerpiece, sometimes I would ‘accidentally’ drop one or toss one in the plant nearby. It was like they disappeared because at the next meal, there was always room for more to be stashed away.
Paula and Kathy squabbled away across the table about school starting and how cute so-n-so was or what a geek so-n-so was. Nothing that interested me though. I remember feeling very tired, maybe it was because of their excessive chattering. Next thing I knew I was opening my eyes and I was in my own bed. [/i]