Saturday, December 22, 2012

Going Home




       Shalom stepped off the bus and gazed up and down the small stretch of her old hometown in Maine, which held only a convenience store, gas station, and bar. If it weren’t for the bar, there would be no bus stop this close to home, so she should consider herself lucky. But she still had four miles to go. Shalom glimpsed the telltale red truck peeking out in the lot behind the bar, bright against the gray sky, and her stomach knotted. The last time she saw it, her cottage had burned to ashes. Along with her mother.

       Ben had been the one who stopped Shalom from running into the flames.  Maybe she could’ve saved her mother. The rational part of her brain knew it had been too late, but casting blame was easier than holding the entire weight of guilt on her like a log in her backpack. 

       She shifted from foot to foot while considering her options.  Ben had loved her mother. Each time he spoke to her, his faced betrayed his true feelings. He would drive Shalom without asking questions. Other neighbors would ask, “Did you come all this way from New York City alone? Where’s your guardian? Did you run away? Just what do you think you’ll do out there on the edge of the forest with your home gone?" 

He’d understand.

       As she took a step towards the store across the street, drizzle prickled her nose and cheeks. Tendrils of chill had already wafted through the gaps inside her thin jacket. It would be a long way to walk in the rain. 

       Before she mustered courage to take the last few steps, Ben stepped out from the store. The bells on the wreath jingled as the door closed behind him. A beard covered most of his weathered face, just like she remembered.  He glanced up at the dreary sky before he saw her.  She waited for him to notice her, just a few feet away. His head came down and his eyes widened.  He reached her in two strides.

“Shalom, you cut your hair. You look just like… your mother.”

She touched her the edge of her bob nervously and nodded.

       Ben’s eyes sparked with questions. But he didn’t ask them, just like she knew he wouldn’t.  Instead he exhaled in a whistle and said, “You want to go home, don’t you?”

She nodded again.

He turned towards his truck, and she followed.

       After a year away, stepping into the truck was both familiar and foreign. She’d missed it.

       They drove. The only sound was the squeak of the windshield wipers.  The air thickened with questions unspoken. Any town gossip?  How was Ben since the fire? Was he keeping an eye out on the land she'd inherit in six years?  

       The only hue besides gray was the crimson of the hood and the green still clinging to the wintry fields. Shalom covered this length of road thousands of times, many of them in the very truck she sat in when her mom’s beat up old car broke down. Did Ben ever start the car?  Did it still run?  If it didn’t, Shalom figured he tinkered with it until the car hummed to life again.

       Ben's truck passed the familiar trees just where Shalom’s property began.  She wished it were summer, so leaves would cover the skeleton-finger branches. If it had been a rainy day like this one on the day of the fire, perhaps her mother would’ve survived. Ben turned right. The truck lurched back and forth over the tiny dirt road leading to her house. The garage stood alone.  As it loomed closer, its disrepair became starker.  Had a year weathered it or was it the new perspective she had viewing it?

Before the fire consumed her mother, the tiny home had been their refuge. 

       Ben stopped in front of the garage.  Shalom mumbled a thank you before jumping down.  Her feet tread on sacred ground.  Time and weather had taken most of the evidence of the home and fire away, but her mother's spirit still lingered like fog. Shalom crouched down and grasped a clump of mud, imagining herself as a little girl clasping her mother's hand.

       She stood up and wiped her hands together to clean them.  Ben's truck waited, idling.  She stepped inside.  He didn't say, "Where to?" He didn't have to. He put the truck in gear and drove away.  


This story is dedicated to anyone who 
has suffered a loss in December.


This is a picture prompt from The Mag.  
Why don't you give one a try?


32 comments:

  1. What a story- and you've created the moods so well. I could feel them rising as I read. Great job!

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    1. Thank you, Shelly. I'm always impressed with the moods you capture with your real stories.

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  2. You really captured the sorrow and regret.

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    1. Alex, thanks. I'm glad to hear I created the atmosphere I intended.

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  3. Hi Theresa .. that's some journey - I feel for those who have lost someone recently ... great post and story line ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Hilary, I know you've suffered a great loss this year. Thought of you among the other people I know who have had people die who are close to them this year. Take care.

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  4. Okay. This is beautifully written T. I felt my heart sink. You put me right there. I saw it all in my minds eye.

    My dadai (dad) passed away the week before Christmas. :( *deep sigh* The last paragraph says it all.

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    1. Robyn, I'm sorry you lost your father this time of year. Must be a sad reminder each year. This has been a big month of losses and it's been weighing on me.

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  5. Nicely done, Theresa. Thank you for sharing it. It is a challenge to lose loved ones anytime, but near a special event can be especially challenging. You are sweet to encourage us in this way.

    Happy Holidays to you and your family! :)

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    1. Karen, thank you. I wish you and your family happy holidays too!

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  6. Very atmospheric. (Read: it had me in tears.)

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  7. great story, thanks for sharing! my family is from longview, maine. beautiful!

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    1. Tammy, I'm writing a story set in Maine. My dad lives in Camden. He used to live in Damariscotta. Beautiful state.

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  8. A lot of emotion in this. You created a wonderful story.

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  9. Beautiful writing, Theresa. Thanks for sharing something so special. Happy Holidays!

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    1. Victoria, thank you so much. Happy Holidays to you.

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  10. Very gripping, a lovely story.
    Have a great Christmas.

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    1. Anthony, thank you. I wish you a great Christmas.

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  11. Good use of the prompt. I've not tried doing these yet - might give it a go next year.

    Happy Christmas.

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    1. Patsy, I've tried it a few times and have found it rewarding.

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  12. You have a lovely touch, Theresa!

    I hope you enjoy a wonderful holiday season with your family!

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    1. Jemi, thank you. I wish you a wonderful holiday season too.

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  13. I love this story, Theresa. Beautiful.

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  14. Wow! Great story.
    Merry Christmas
    Xx

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    1. Michelle, thank you! I hope you had a great Christmas.

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  15. Amazing. I love this. So somber and soulful yet at the same time reflective in a loving and heartfelt way. Have a Happy New Year.

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    1. Thanks, Michael. That's high praise coming from you.

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  16. I loved reading this story Theresa.

    Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

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  17. I really enjoyed this story, Theresa. Your writing was smooth and simple yet heart-wrenching. I also found your descriptions enticing. They really set the scene ie. the wreath.

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