When my dad drops me off at home just after lunch the next day, he turns to me expectantly. “Shirley and I loved having you over, will you come again?”
“Of course I will. Why are you asking such a silly question?” I chuckle uncomfortably.
“How about you come and stay with us for the whole summer break?”
I feel a sense of apprehension press down on me. “It’s still a few weeks till break-up day, we can discuss it. You will be phoning between now and then, won’t you?” I ask cautiously. Then I say light-heartedly, “Besides, you’ll get sick of me if I stayed for an entire three months.”
He looks at me thoughtfully as I put my hand on the latch to open the car door and I pull it toward me.
As I climb out the car, he leans across the seat I just vacated. “I’ll phone you, so we can make the arrangements.”
I lean down into the car and peck him on the cheek. “Bye, Dad. Thanks for everything, I had a nice time.”
I stand in the driveway, hugging my bag to my chest until I see his car disappear around the corner.
With a sigh, I turn toward my own front door. When I open the door and step up into my house, the familiar smells of home rush toward me. I hear the familiar sounds and I feel the familiar vibrations. It feels as if a great rock as big as the moon drops from my shoulders. I feel my lungs fill with the well-known oxygen between these four walls.
I call, “Mom?”
I hear her voice, and I cannot believe how I have missed it, coming from the back garden, “Here, Heather.”
I drop my bag onto the bottom stair of the staircase and I rush out of the house, into the garden. She is kneeling on the ground with a garden fork in her hand. Her hair is tied up in a messy bun behind her head, and she is wearing hideously baggy track pants and a T-shirt with a hole in the sleeve. She wipes the back of her hand across her forehead, and she leaves a brown muddy smear across her skin. She is the most beautiful person I have ever seen.
She leans back onto her ankles when she sees me, and her smile radiates toward me. I walk faster and then I lean down to hug her. “I missed you.”
She laughs happily. “I missed you too.”
I drop down onto the grass next to her and watch her as she goes back to gardening. After a while she asks, “So? How was it?”
“Awful! Now he wants me to go there for the entire holiday.”
She looks back at me across her shoulder, a frown between her blue eyes. “Are you sure he said the whole holiday?”
She looks back at the dark, brown ground in front of her, and then with her yellow garden-gloved hand, she carefully lifts an earthworm from the ground and places it gently into the back, behind a shrub where she has already taken out the weeds. She asks carefully, “Would you like to go for three months?”
“No, and please you have to talk to him. It felt so awkward being there and I know it was never their intention, but I could not help feeling like a guest. Don’t get me wrong, they are nice and friendly, but it is just, ugh, I don’t know how to explain it.”
“It is okay, Heather, I understand. I’ll talk to him, and I’ll tell him you will go for at least a week.”
“All at once, or scattered?”
She laughs softly. “All at once, and at the end of that week I am sure you will feel more at home there.”
“I seriously doubt it.” I lay back onto the spongy green grass. The sun glares in my eyes so I place my forearm across my eyes. I hear her move on, further away from me as she digs up the weeds, turn the soil and save the earthworms.
My mom is brave, independent, free-spirited and adventurous. Jeez, she saves earthworms and she does not mind picking them up. Would I rather want someone to keep me safe and protected or would I want someone who would be adventurous with me, who will let me be independent and free-spirited, someone who would bring out the wild side in me.
I ponder and mull over this until my mom nudges me with her toe and announces, “Come, it’s getting late and you are going to get wet out here. The dew is heavy this year.”
Upstairs, in my room, I look around at everything. My single bed with the faded purple duvet cover, the bedside table with candles in every imaginable colour, the lamp with the mismatched lampshade, the old-fashioned alarm clock. My eyes drift to my dressing table and the mess of lip-gloss, mascara, bangles, brushes and necklaces. The photos of Shannon and I pasted along the edges of the mirror, and the big brown wooden jewellery box, pasted full of red heart stickers. There is no jewellery in this box, but the contents are even more precious to me. It keeps every single love note I have ever received secure.
I drop down onto my bed and automatically my body finds that comfortable, familiar hollow space. I nuzzle into it and not long after I am fast asleep.
I wake up from a scraping noise and the house is dark and quiet. The street lamp shines brightly into my room. I fell asleep without drawing the blinds and the curtain and I cannot remember opening the window. The lace-curtain is flirting with the cool breeze. Although the weather is beautiful and the days have been bright and sunny, there is still a chill in the air at night.
I stand up from the bed to close the window, rubbing my hands over my bare arms vigorously, hoping the friction will warm up my cold skin.
A shadow approach me from the side, but I ignore it because I see these hazy patches of mist more frequently now. Although they frightened me in the beginning, I have gotten used to seeing them. I still have not told my mom to make an appointment with our GP. I am hoping it will just disappear. I would not want the doctor to tell me there is something seriously wrong with me. Although I suppose the faster I see the doctor or a specialist, the sooner they can begin working on a cure for me. I realize shocked, what if it is mental? Would they have to lock me up in an institution if it got worse? Now, I really did not know if I should tell my mom or not.