West Virginia 1977
Anna stood upon the shore waiting as Edward disembarked his ship. Soon he would be in her arms and the years of separation would melt away.
Marilee sighed as she pushed away the old typewriter. She knew these words to be pure fantasy. True love did not actually exist. But “Women’s Romances” magazine paid her to pretend that it did. The small checks she received from them kept her from starving during the brutal West Virginia winter.
Marilee lived alone in the tiny cabin. Her radio and her old Ford truck her only links to the world. She raised chickens, had a massive vegetable garden and fished and hunted for her food. Marilee didn’t need other people to survive. She had survived on her own since Mama died when she was fourteen.
Marilee needed to make her weekly trip into town for supplies and she dreaded doing so. The town folk looked upon her as odd but Marilee didn’t much care. They had shunned her since she was a child and would always do so.
Marilee got up and switched off the radio. Her beloved Reds had beaten the Dodgers. Pete Rose stole home to win the game.
Marilee placed her Reds cap on her head as she prepared to leave for town. With her flannel shirt, baggy jeans and thick hiking boots she knew she looked like a man, but didn’t care. She never wore makeup and kept her dark hair tied in a loose pony tail. She hadn’t worn a dress since she was a small child.
As soon as she got into her truck to drive the five miles down the mountain into town, the fear and trepidation began. The sweats and the racing heart. It happened to her whenever she was forced to leave the comfort of her cabin deep in the woods.
Charley, who ran the small grocer in Reedsville gave her a smile when she entered his store. He and his wife Flora had always been kind. In fact she had lived with them for a brief time when she went to high school in town. That had been before she escaped back to the mountain.
“Did ya hear the game on the radio today, Marilee? That Pete Rose is sure some player.” Charley said to her.
She nodded and paid for her purchases. Flour, sugar, and corn syrup. She was noticing the young girl hanging around at the back of the store near the rack of magazines. It was the same girl she had seen in here a week ago.
“Charley, do you know who that girl is? I’ve seen her in here before and I know she isn’t from here. When I was in town a week ago, she seemed to be following me everywhere I went. The post office, the bank and the library.”
Old Charley shrugged. “Don’t know where she came from. She looks like a runaway to me. Folks are getting antsy about her always hangin’ around. You know how people are about hippies and vagabonds around here”
Marilee knew exactly how people were. She felt sorry for the girl but it unnerved her that the she seemed to be following her.
When Marilee left the store the girl was standing on the street in front of her truck. She was a scraggly thing of about fifteen or sixteen. Her hair was matted, her clothes filthy, and she smelled as though she hadn‘t a bath in weeks.
”Listen, I don‘t know who you are or were you came from. But I don’t much care for people on my tail like you have been.”
The girl didn‘t say anything at first and Marilee began to wonder if she was capable of speaking.
“I’m Callie. I’m your baby sister.”
Marilee wasn’t sure she believed the girl, but agreed to buy her lunch at Ma’s diner. The child inhaled her food. Quickly devouring a burger, fries, strawberry milkshake and cherry pie.
“This is the best food I’ve had since I left Louisville. Mom, I mean your Aunt Janice, was never much of a cook.”
“I’m not much for small talk. How did you find me and what are you doing here?” Marilee asked angrily.
All of the memories she had tried to suppress for years were coming back. Mama getting pregnant at forty after losing three babies. Daddy running off. Aunt Janice and her husband Ed coming from Louisville and adopting the tiny baby girl because Mama was too sick.
They had half-heartedly suggested taking Marilee as well, but Marilee knew they wanted a sweet baby girl and not a surly fourteen year old. She stayed in the cabin with Mama until she passed.
Callie began digging in her knapsack and pulled out a Kodak photo of a dark haired young girl sitting in a porch rocker holding a baby.
“I found this in the attic along with my adoption certificate and some other stuff. I asked my mom about it and she got mad at me for snooping. All she told me about you was that you lived outside Reedsville, West Virginia.”
“So, I take it you hitched your way from Kentucky to West Virginia. Takes guts at your age. Just don’t get any ideas about staying. You can spend the night, but you’re getting on the bus in the morning. Your folks are no doubt worried sick.“
“They’re good people. They never showed a lot of love or affection. That was just how they were.“
The girl had never wanted for anything. She grew up with a comfortable roof over head, decent food, clothes and a good education. Her comments about her folks came across as whining to Marilee.
“Come on. I don’t imagine you’ll be much impressed by my place in the woods. I don’t even have a TV.”
The girl looked at Marilee in astonishment as she followed her to the truck.
She stayed three days. She bathed in the stream near the cabin, helped fed the chickens, did other chores and chased the dog around the woods. They tried to find the sisterly bond that had been lost by listening to country music and baseball on the radio.
Eventually, Callie started to feel homesick and it became time for her to go. Marilee drove her into town to use the pay phone at Charley’s store. Then, she drove her sister to the bus station.
Marilee’s life didn’t change all that much after Callie left. She had her sister back, but she still preferred her solitary mountain life.
Two years after Callie’s visit, Marilee was at the post office in town when she opened her box to find a letter postmarked Louisville, Kentucky. She opened it to find a short note and a photo of a girl in a graduation cap and gown flanked by two smiling parents.