Black ink created an arc of swallows wings on the journal page, pooling and running where tears landed.
The silver pen came to rest in its velvet-lined case, reminiscent of the warmth of her mother’s arms. Looking upon it now, a vow was made: the day of seeking would come, and soon.
Racy swiped the tears away. She’d spent the last year in a fog. First the disbelief. How could it be true? How could the vibrant mother, who ran with her, who coached her soccer team, who talked her through the low-points of junior high, and treated her like a trusted friend, how could that woman have a disease that would take her life? It wasn’t possible. Someone was wrong. Then the illness’s symptoms started, along with the treatments. The disbelief continued, but the questions changed. How unfair could the world be, to make her mother suffer through this, to take away every bit of meaning from her life in exchange for an unlikely cure? How could her mother be so strong, so loving, so unwavering, when she was so ill, in so much pain?
Why weren’t the treatments working? Why didn’t they do something, change the treatment, operate? Why was everyone so helpless? Everyday the weakness grew more noticeable. Everyday, every single day, her mother pulled her onto her lap and held her like there was no tomorrow. And she told her daughter the stories of how she came into their world, reminded her how much she was wanted, and loved, and treasured. All in preparation for the end.
Racy’s chest hurt from the hollow place left by her mother’s passing. She didn’t know if the pain would ever, ever go away. But she knew one thing. It was time to meet her birth mother.
A haze of fog filtered sunlight through the spring-green leaves and dark tree trunks that separated gravel driveway from two-lane blacktop, shielding the old farmhouse from sight. Andra Skye Mackenzie jogged toward the road, anxious to get to the task, admiring the first flush of grape hyacinth that her dog, Laramie, crushed without thought as she ran along beside her master. Both woman and dog felt the rush of newness, not just spring’s renewal, but the energy of starting something new, someplace new. Andie’s feet flew along the gravel despite her heavy work boots.
It was only the second morning in her new house. Watching the fog dissipate, she shared the sun’s mission, to brighten the day with a mundane task – finish one thing out of the thousand that needed doing to update the old Jacob’s place. Andie wanted her neighbors to know the old farmhouse was no longer abandoned. She reached the mailbox, gloved hands ready to rip rusty battered metal from its post, where it seemed to be dangling from a couple of bent nails.
From its condition, she concluded a teenager caused the damage a long time ago, practicing a swing from a fast-moving vehicle. A mighty whack cleaved through the box’s middle, leaving raw edges exposed through John-Deere-green paint.
Unexpectedly, the assault clenched at her gut. Sour acid wracked her body, gnawed at her mind. Not so long ago she had been that teenager. Acting-out. Pretending fun lay in destruction. She’d been the victim of adrenaline-propelled stupidity. Old memories hurled through her mind, things she had not thought about in years – spark-snapping decisions, fear pulsing through every nerve. Crushing guilt when the deeds were done.
The odd relief, almost disappointment when getting caught didn’t really result in consequences, until later, when the accumulated transgressions got her sent to boarding school.
Andie shook it off. That was then. At 34 years old she had pretty much processed all of that. And a lot of other mistakes as well. She was ready to create a stable life.
The mailbox post teetered between chunks of asphalt and limestone boulders. Andie pushed forward on the bent metal. The post careened sideways. The rocks grabbed at her boots, pulling her feet in opposite directions. Recovering, she planted her feet on opposite sides of the rugged post, wrapped her arms around the box and jerked back with all her might. Andie growled with the effort. It refused to budge. She released it and stepped back. “Acch. You’re a stubborn old thing,” she said through clenched teeth.
Laramie left her leaf nest and nudged Andie’s leg; she pulled off a glove and rubbed the golden retriever’s head. The old familiar feeling of not being able to do things, simple everyday things, enveloped her. Fighting frustration brought tears to her eyes; she swiped them away. The desire to kick something exploded through her. She knew this cycle far too well. It was time for a different tactic. “Come on, Laramie,” she said, turning away from the road, the mailbox, the first thing on her list. “New plan.”
Reaching the yard, Andie took a deep breath and spread her arms to the massive oak whose leafy canopy would protect the house from summer heat. Fusing her energy with the towering tree, she visualized her feet joining the deep roots, raised her eyes to the sky. With her cheek flat on the rough bark, she exhaled – breathing out the tension caused by the constant motion of moving, the constant mental activity of closing a real estate deal. And most of all, the ugly past that hatched during the mailbox chore she’d just abandoned.
She blinked slowly, refocusing her eyes. Her purchase shined in the morning sun. The 1880s farmhouse rose two-stories from a stone foundation; green trim framed white clapboards – scallops decorated the gables – her dream house. Her home.