My tires slowly crunch against the gravel driveway I was so fond of as a child. This place is surrounded by trees, making it a hidden gem. As the trees part and the driveway opens up the house comes into view.
The one level cabin is perched on a small hill and the only thing around is the open yard and trees surrounding the property. The creek runs sleepily behind the house. I missed this place more than I want to admit. The good memories outweigh the last few bad ones. I swallow that thought and climb out of my Chevy Malibu.
As my car door shuts the back door of the cabin opens and grams waddles out. Her gray hair up in an ancient beehive bun. She still wears the same long flowy, bright skirts I remember from childhood.
“Ellie! Get in here. You’ll catch a cold out there.” I roll my eyes. She always was overdramatic. It’s barely October and it’s still in the sixties though it won’t last long.
“Grams, we are in Indiana not Antarctica.” I laugh as she motions me in. I strip off my boots and jacket and gramps greets me with a smile from the couch across the house. Still watching the evening news.
“I hope you’re hungry. Though you look like you’ve been eating well enough.”
“Thanks, grams. You know, you should learn to hold your tongue.” I pay her no mind. I was always a chubby kid and now that I’m twenty three I still have thick thighs and a stomach that’s not exactly flat. Still, being a size twelve doesn’t seem too bad to me.
“Honey, she hasn’t held her tongue in the last sixty-one years. She ain’t starting now!” Gramps shouts and I giggle.
“I thought you were deaf in one ear you old grump! Butt out. Anyway, I’m making your favorite. Those big juicy cheeseburgers you loved as a kid. You were always takin’ two with you as you ran into them woods. Saying your friend would want one too.”
My mood instantly sours. Why did she bring that up? I would play in those woods for hours until someone would call my name telling me to come home. I had an imaginary friend, Nikan who seemed so real. My parents eventually got fed up with me talking about him like he was a real person. I tried to make him come to our house to prove to them he was real and he said he wasn’t allowed to do that.
My father told me I couldn’t go to the woods anymore and I cried and cried. Grams told him the boy was harmless but dad got angry and told her to stay out of it. I snuck out to see him one evening and when I got home dad had packed our bags. He dragged me kicking and screaming to the car. Mom cried and wouldn’t look at me.
Dad said if I mentioned my imaginary friend ever again that he would have to take me to the hospital where crazy people go. He said I would never see them again if I had to go there. So, I stopped talking for years. When I finally found my voice again I was in the shower singing a song grams taught me. From that moment on I only spoke to give a short answer to anyone who spoke to me.
I was a recluse at school, home and work. Eventually, when I turned sixteen I was allowed to come back and see grams and gramps once a year. After I turned eighteen I came back to life and poured myself into school and worked to become one of the best children’s authors in the country with my best selling series Nik and Ellie. Yeah, dad went ballistic when he realized I wasn’t totally over my imaginary friend from sixteen years ago.
But, this time I was an adult and he couldn’t do anything about it. Mom and grams were proud of my accomplishment at such a young age while gramps was indifferent as usual.
Grams serves me a plate bringing me back to reality. I take off my scarf and pull up a chair. We fall into a comfortable silence as we enjoy the meal. Grams, of course, can’t handle that for long.
“I’m glad you’ve decided to come stay here for awhile dear. We’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too. And this place. It’s always been home to me.”
“Welcome home then. Gramps took it upon himself to update your room. We are both just so happy to have you back.”
We spend the evening catching up before I make my way to my room. The cabin walls are wood and feel so cozy compared to my little apartment I had. I just needed to come home. I felt it calling me and without hesitation I packed my bags and told grams I was coming back.
The white quilt covering my bed has tiny yellow flowers that have yet to bloom. Warm yellow pillow cases surround fluffy pillows. After gramps helps me unload the few boxes and suitcase I have, I begin unpacking. The sun is setting by the time I’m finished. I peek out the window toward the path that leads to the woods. There’s no one out there. I scold myself for my wandering mind.
Grams knocks on the door and comes in to wish me goodnight. Early to bed early to rise, she says. It’s barely eight o’clock.
“We really are excited you’re home Ellie. I left a little surprise under the bed. Thought you might try getting back into old habits...maybe back into the woods too.” She whispers the last part and winks. I think I finally know where I get my crazy mind. The old bat is suggesting I go back into the woods again.
“I love you grams. Quit meddling and go tuck gramps into bed.” She cackles and her bun shakes on her head. When she leaves I drag the soft case from under the bed and unzip it. The wooden, curved bow has a new string and looks just like it did when I was a girl. The arrows look brand new.
Grams must’ve convinced gramps to make it special. The leather quiver is worn as the jacket I still wear. First thing tomorrow I know I’ll make my way back into the woods despite my fathers warning ringing in my head.