The Unhappy Reunion
This sad story is about one family who is split by doubts, fears, and confusing beliefs. The affects these feelings have on the family will make you angry, sad, and perhaps doubtful. Could this be a real family? Perhaps, maybe even one you know.
I don't usually write this sadly, but it came to me and I thought you might enjoy reading another part of me.
The newspaper notice:
The day begins
Daybreak-the sun slowly creeps out from behind the trees and begins to show her smiling face over the world. A lone traveler raises his face and shields his eyes as he observes her slow progress. Calmly, he drops his backpack and removes his jacket. He stuffs it into a side pocket, grabs a few swallows of water, replaces the pack on his back and returns to shuffling along the empty dirt path.
Bushes that line the sides of the path twitch now and again as the wind or an unseen animal makes its way through the branches. Tree branches overhead droop down low to the path occasionally grabbing at the lone traveler; but he ignores their interruptions, concentrating instead on carefully placing his feet on the rough path. A squirrel races across the path in front of him, intent on reaching the safety of the other side. The traveler offers a slight smile before carefully schooling his features back to one of indifference.
A clearing becomes visible through a break in the trees and the traveler stops for a moment to observe it. Nothing moves within the circle. With a soft sigh, the traveler makes his way to the clearing and, tossing his pack to the ground, sits on a cool rock nestled in the shade of a large maple tree. He removes rations from his pack and munches on them as he studies a worn map that he has removed from his pocket. The wind moves the corners playfully as he studies, but the man ignores the request to play. His rations eaten, he returns the map to his pocket and resumes his travels.
The terrain slowly changes as he travels along, becoming thinner and lighter. He begins to feel the sun more on his back. He bends towards the path to ease his eyes from the glare. Suddenly the path widens and he can clearly see the ruts of carts that have made their way along the path in earlier times. He wipes sweat from his forehead and smiles while sipping from his water bottle. His trek is nearly at an end.
The trek leads him to a house
Seeming to be in a better mood, the traveler resumes his trek along the path that soon leads him out of the heavy woods and into wide open fields. He can see people stooped over as they dig, plant or otherwise work in the neat rows. None of them wave, although they all take a moment to look, and he doesn’t wave back. He doesn’t know these people well and feels anonymity is best. The fields give way to a smooth paved road with neat rows of houses on either side displaying gardens and lawn décor. The traveler stops to wipe the sweat from his forehead and takes another sip of water. It won’t be long now.
He counts the houses as he moves along the road. One, that would be the doctor’s house. Two, that’s the nosey neighbor who always gossips about the people in town. Three, and that would have to be the baker and his wife. Four, the cute little house of the school teacher. Five, the old geezer who constantly hits on the young girls. Six, the policeman and his wife. Seven, that was the one. The traveler set his pack on the sidewalk next to him and peered at the neat white house with black shutters and a white picket fence around the lawn. He sipped the last of his water and seemed to be contemplating what he should do next.
He is confronted by family
The front door opened and a middle-aged woman stepped out. She looked at the traveler for a moment without recognition. “Can I help you, stranger?” she asked.
“Barbs, is that you?” the traveler said removing his hat and smiling brightly.
“Oh my goodness, is it really you, Tom? We thought you had died because no one had heard from you for so long.” The woman raced down the three steps and up to the stranger with arms extended.
“Oh, you don’t want to hug me, Barbs,” Tom said gently pushing her away, “I’m all sweaty from my trip.”
“Are you here for the, you know?” Barbs asked suddenly very interested in the sidewalk.
“Yes, when I read it, I felt I owed her that much,” Tom answered. “Is everyone here?”
“Just about, we’re waiting for Corey. He phoned to tell us the train was late.”
“Oh,” Tom said and then he sighed deeply. “Well, I guess I should get it over with, huh?”
“It won’t be that bad,” Barbs said with a slow smile, “you’ll see.”
Tom picked up his pack and tossed it over one shoulder. Then he took the first step towards the porch and the front door. He could hear people talking inside and he hesitated in the very process of reaching for the door handle.
“Oh, go on,” Barbs said from behind him and she gave him a gentle shove.
He enters the house
Tom slowly turned the handle and opened the door. Everyone turned to see who was at the door and it became so silent that you could hear the wind gently tapping at the windows. Tom turned as if to leave, but Barbs was behind him and she wouldn’t move. After a moment, she shoved against him so that he would step the rest of the way into the room. Everyone stared at him as Barbs closed the door behind him trapping him inside. A pregnant silence filled the air and Tom wished that he hadn’t come.
To keep his mind off of the silence, Tom occupied his mind identifying each of them. George, the oldest, his white hair only barely streaked with black now. Deb, the next in line. She was smiling that soft smirky smile that never seemed to leave her lips. Corey wasn’t there yet, but Tom was fairly certain he wouldn’t have changed much since the last time he had seen him. Barbs shoved at him again and Tom stepped further towards the crowd that stood silently judging him.
“OMG!” the letters burst from the mouth of Britty, the youngest of the group. “Tom,” she cried jumping up from her chair. “You came!” She raced to his side and reached up for a hug.
“Aw, Britty,” Tom said softly trying to push her arms away, “I’m all sweaty.”
“So,” she said grabbing him and pulling him against her. He felt awkward in her embrace, but he also felt the warmth she had for him. “Mom’s upstairs,” she said breaking the hold. “She’s been asking for you.”
“I figured,” Tom said stepping away from Britty and watching as a stray tear rolled down her cheek.
“Tom, you old bucket of bolts,” George said coming up and reaching out to shake Tom’s hand. “Didn’t think we’d ever see you again.” Tom shook his hand and gave him a half smile.
“Tom,” Deb said from a distance, “glad you could make it.” Then she turned away and sipped from her cup.
“Isn’t it great to see him?” Barbs said stepping out from behind him, “I couldn’t believe it was him when I stepped outside.”
“Yeah, great,” Deb said over her shoulder.
“Oh stop it,” Barbs said sternly. “Tom took the first step and it’s up to us all to follow through!”
Just then the door opened up and everyone turned to see who it was. Standing in the doorway, silhouetted by the morning sun, was Corey. He was in dirty jeans and his T-shirt was torn in several places. His scruffy hair danced gently in the wind. Corey slammed the door shut and stood glaring at Tom.
“So,” he said smirking slightly, “hadn’t gotten enough before and decided to grace us with your presence once more?”
“Corey,” Barbs said stepping between the two, “Tom was good enough to come without a fuss. Lay off of him."
“I don’t have to do what you say,” he said turning his glare to Barbs, “or any of you, for that matter,” he added scanning the room. “So, Tom, what will it be this time?”
“Nothing,” Tom said calmly, “I just want to see mom and then I’m off again. You won’t have to worry about me making any trouble.”
“Oh, how wonderful,” Corey gushed, “he’s not gonna make trouble. Oh, I’m sooooo relieved.”
“Corey,” George said stepping up to Barbs side, “Barbs is right, knock it off.” Corey grumbled about no one having a sense of humor but he did stop trying to get a rise out of Tom.
“I’ll go see mom,” Tom said, “and then I’ll be heading out.” Without waiting for a response, Tom headed for the stairs.
“Wait,” Barbs called, “I’ll come with you."
“No,” Tom answered. “I’ll go alone.”
He faces his mother
He took the first step and sighed looking up towards the dark hallway and his mother’s bedroom door that rested just to the right. This is what you came for, he told himself, so get it over with. He forced himself to climb and before long he stood in front of the door to his mother’s room. He reached for the door handle just as a soft voice floated through the closed door.
“Is that you, Tommy?” his mother asked. “Come in, come in, son, I haven’t seen you in so long. I missed you.”
Tom slowly opened the door and peeked inside the darkened room. Lying in the shadows on the bed was a frail elderly woman. Her face was pale and thin. Her nightgown was huge on her because she had lost so much weight. Tom waited a moment for his eyes to finish adjusting and then he walked up to the right side of the bed.
"Mother,” he said.
“Sit Tommy,” the woman said indicating with a shaky hand that Tom should sit on the side of the bed. “You look well,” she added. “Are you still walking everywhere?”
“Yes,” he answered dryly.
“Still angry, after all these years?” she asked resting her cold hand on his where it rested on the bed.
“I didn’t come here to fight old battles,” Tom said pulling his hand away. “I came to pay my respects to my mother. I will be leaving as soon as I leave this room.”
“Why must you go?” the woman asked as a single tear trickled down her pale cheek.
“Because I don’t belong here, Mother,” he said. “We both know that. I am an outcast and have been for many years. I will not stay and cause issues. I have come to say good bye to you.”
“Yet I cannot touch you?” she said sadly.
“I am no longer the naive teenager that once lived here,” he said looking out the window instead of at the tears that had begun a steady stream down his mother’s face.
“I did not mean to drive you away,” she said plucking at the blanket.
“I know,” he said. “I need to go, now, mother,” he said rising. “I wish you and the family well.” He turned to leave, but his mother called him back.
“Tommy,” she said softly, “I’m sorry.”
“I know,” he said just as softly and turned to leave the room.
The second meeting
At the bottom of the stairs, Barbs waited for Tommy. “Did you see her?” she asked when Tom reached her.
“Yes, and I said good bye, so I will leave now.”
“No, Tom,” George said coming up to stand in front of him. “We need to work this out, now, while we are all present.”
Tom looked into the eyes of the brother who had tried to be a father to him when he needed a brother more. “I don’t think so,” he said, “I will leave. I know my welcome was only temporary for Mother’s sake.”
“But Tom,” Britty said coming to stand beside him, “we would really like you to stay.”
Tom looked at Corey who sat in a chair by the table smirking. “Do you?” he asked Britty.
“Yes, of course we do,” she said. “Even Corey, right Corey?”
“Yeah, sure,” Corey said, “Come and set a spell,” he added waving a hand for Tom to move towards the table.
Tom smiled. The first easy smile he had been able to produce in over five years. “Corey,” he said, “I am no longer afraid of you. I am no longer worried about what you think. And I no longer care about your feelings.” Then he turned to the rest of his family. “I love the rest of you very much, but Mother, Deb and Corey made it very plain to me that I was not actually family. Adopted children are often treated that way. I will be going now. So long everyone.”
As he headed for the front door, Barbs stepped in front of him. “Tom," she said softly, "you aren't the adopted one, we are." Tom turned his smile on her.
"Yes," he said, "but I might as well have been. Remember mother's words--you can't pick your relatives? Good-bye Barbs."
"You will keep in touch, won’t you?” she asked.
“Sure, if you want me to,” he said patting her gently on the shoulder.
Tom stepped into the bright sunlight and pulled his sunglasses from his shirt pocket. He put them on and whistled as he made his way down the street. He heard his name called and he turned. Standing on the porch facing him was Barbs, George, and Britty. They held their arms across their chest symbolically giving him a hug. Smiling, Tom returned the ‘hug’ before turning and walking away from them. His heart was finally free.
© 2012 Cheryl Simonds