D O I S
WHEN Joanna thought of home, she always thought of cinnamon and apples. The smell wafting through the house as she raced inside to be the first to try her grandma’s favorite pie. After a long day of running around the fields and playing with the neighbors kids, Jo always enjoyed coming home to grandma’s house and having some pie.
Baking was something her grandmother did every day since Joanna’s parents left. Willow had been her grandmother’s only child and when she decided to just pack her bags and leave, not only had her grandmother been devastated but also in charge of a small child.
It hadn’t been easy, Joanna knew that now. An older woman, unemployed, with a small child was something not everyone could pull off and Jo knew her grandmother didn’t own much besides the small house in the hill and the beat up car they used merely to go to the hospital. Gasoline was pricey which meant they had to take longer routes to everywhere they had to go except the hospital.
As a child, Joanna didn’t questioned her grandmother’s rules. To be honest, she loved the hills and the animals that lived freely in them but things don’t always work out the way we want them to. By the time she was four, her grandmother passed away in a terrifying accident. She was rushing to make dinner when she slipped and fell, breaking her neck when her head bumped harshly against the counter.
Joanna, not knowing what to do, tried waking her up multiple times. Please granny, please. Everything fell short because the older woman simply refused to open her eyes. So, unknowingly, she sat there for two consecutive days beside her grandmother’s body, hoping that she would somehow wake up. She never did.
It was reaching the third day when her teacher from school came to visit to check on them. Not many people did. They lived far off from the town and her grandmother had never shown any interest in abandoning her own home to live closer, to have neighbors. By consequence, neither did Joanna.
She remembers being found. She doesn’t remember sitting besides her grandmother’s corpse for two days feeding off of crackers and juice packs. Actually, if one were to ask her, she doesn’t remember much. The doctors briefly informed the lady who would then take care of her, that she had been in shock. That her brain had shut down to prevent psychological damage.
At the time, Jo had no idea what it meant. Now she did.
She shook her head and pushed the door of the car open before hopping out, still clutching the bag of trash she carried with her. Her heart was pounding harshly but she couldn’t for the life of herself and Noah show fear. She was fine. She was great. Nothing happened.
She dumped the bag in the container outside and fished in her pockets for her house keys. When she found them, she rummaged through them until she found the one she wanted and inserted it into the slot, turning it once and then twice before stepping inside.
It smelled like cinnamon and apples.
The lights were all on and she didn’t expect anything less from Chelsea. The teenager was petrified of the dark and even though it had been one of her main warnings when she begun taking care of Noah, Joanna still worried about the electricity bill. If it kept increasing, she had no idea how she would be paying it.
She hummed as she kicked her boots off, followed by her socks and left them at the door. A routine of sorts. Noah liked routines and she followed them thoroughly.
“Anyone home?” She called, smiling as she moved forward down the hallway. The lights were on and the doors and windows to each room were closed as well. The house was somewhat barricaded, against what, Joanna didn’t have a clue.
“We’re here.” Chelsea called out, peaking her head outside the living room and waving frantically. For a teenager, Chelsea had always been easy to deal with. She was lively and cheerful but also careful and responsible and if Joanna was to take a wild guess, she’d say that was the reason she liked the younger girl so much. She reminded her of a young version of herself.
When she crossed the threshold, she found Noah sitting by the couch playing with a model train. It seemed to fascinate him. The colors, the mechanics and the logistics of the train were all things he was desperately interested in. Sometimes, Joanna would find him scribbling little patterns and codes in his notebook, things only he understood but somehow she knew they were related to his train.
At the age of 2, Joanna had noticed that something was different about her son. He would understand and imitate her perfectly. He’d be able to do things that no other kid his age was capable of doing. His brain functioned differently. It worked faster and processed normal situations at a much higher rate than the normal human brain.
That’s what the five doctors Joanna had met with had to say. An absolute genius, they said. But all Joanna could see were the way he was treated by his classmates who despised the fact that someone better than them existed. Being 6 now, Noah was the constant target in school fights. The fights being one sided because he never fought back. He rarely talked too.
When she leaned forward to plant a kiss to his head, Noah moved forward and dodged her lips. He hated being kissed or hugged or anything that involved touching him.
“I’ll be heading off then.” Chelsea said, already halfway out of the door.
When Joanna heard the kitchen door slam, she sighed and turned towards her son. He was a difficult child, never spoke, never begged for anything and mostly never threw tantrums.
“What do you want for dinner pumpkin? Anything on your mind?” She asked as she took off her coat and dropped it on the couch.
When he didn’t respond, she sighed again and left him to his playtime as she wandered off towards the kitchen.
When she begun preparing dinner, her thoughts wondered off to a certain wolf and she found herself consumed with thoughts of those majestic creatures.