It had been twenty-four years since she’d last seen it, but the place looked exactly the same.
The taxi pulled into the cobblestone driveway a few minutes after twelve. The sky was veiled by flickering clouds, and the iridescent colors illuminated the streets the thunder had silenced. The shower earlier that day had carpeted mirrors all over town, and with the blinding neon lights shining from the ground as well; the town was aesthetically dystopian.
Donna hastily jerked her body towards the door, only to be violently returned to her seat, she had forgotten the belt. She sat for a moment, conjuring the energy to laugh but it failed her. The driver however, seemed to have excess, he chuckled himself out of the car and began offloading her bags. A minute later she opened the door with a flush of embarrassment staining her cheeks.
“Alright Miss, I think that’s all.” Said the driver with his left hand stretched out.
Someone should be awake; they knew I was coming after all. Donna’s thoughts have always been like that, settlers on the possibilities of heartbreak. Sometime they even preferred being let down because then she would say, I knew this would happen. Sadly, most times her reinforcements would fail her, she would still feel the sting, and often times she would lie in her bed, conversing with her tears and wonder what she did wrong.
The post-precipitated air smelt of pine trees and wet dirt, the perfume of dewy petrichor lingering. Hilo had always smelt like that, it offered you a taste of earth with airy servings, and a glimpse of heaven with its beauteous landscapes. She remained outside for a moment, there were so many memories the air carried; memories of a life she once lived, and of a person she once was.
The driveway led into an uninviting, delicately furnished porch. “Don’t sit there Donna,” her mother would say, “It’s just for decoration.” She stood by the familiar doorway with a clasped fist that held all her feelings, preparing to bash the door off its hinges, but instead, releasing her reddened grip she touched the door gently. She was startled as the door opened; almost falling in, having lessened her weight on that thing she had used to escape.
“You’re here, good. If you go upstairs, the first room to your left should be free; you’ll be sleeping there this weekend.” says Donna’s mother, her first words to her daughter in twenty-four years.
Donna didn’t expect tears, confessions of love and the warmest welcome, she was not that naïve, but to be directed to what used to be her own room, it irritated her.
She went up the stairs, thinking of the day she had last descended them; the spectre of her twenty-three year old self, met with her in the middle. She watched it angrily descending the carpeted steps with a suitcase in hand and a backpack that rested loosely on its left shoulder. She hadn’t planned to leave forever by then, she was going to go to her aunt in Lahaina for a few days and then come back home, hopefully her parents would have seen the light. However, the conversation on that fateful morning changed everything.
“I’m leaving!” Donna yelled franticly, holding her only possessions
“Where are you going to go? You are twenty-three, you have no job, no money, for goodness sakes, the only skills you have are painting and playing the piano”, she paused, “Tell her Pete!”
“Your mother is right! Now go unpack and stop this silliness.” Her father said with an authoritative air.
“Silliness? You want me to get rid of ---” yelled Donna, so angry that words began to flee from her.
“It’s not like it has a father, and I would rather die before I let you disgrace this family any further. Where is your sense of duty?”
“It! Duty!” her temper was past the point of no return, “That is so like you mum, this child is not an ‘It’, and ‘duty’, what does that word even mean? All my life you have treated me like a job, something you had to raise, I will not be your carbon copy!”
She left home that day, with hatred piercing at her heart and a life inside of her reached out for love; the kind of love that she had never received. Donna stayed in Lahaina until she gave birth, it was on a Sunday morning. The birds chirped in sweet choruses that day, and her heart was overflowing staring in the eyes of what it means to love. For two hours all her hatred towards the world, her doubtful questions towards God, and her anger towards her parents seemed to melt away into foolishness, for she held the only truth in her arms.
“Doctor! Doctor! The baby’s pulse, its--” yelled the nurse that was preparing to take the child into the incubator. The doctor hurried with a quick examination.
“Hurry!” ordered the doctor in a professional panic, “Take the child into theatre one”
Donna froze as she watched her two hour old child being carried away to theatre one, she felt the chill of the reaper, the horseman was near. She heard the softened gallops and the screeching of the scythe, death had arrived to take away life, and in her frozen fear, Donna fainted. She woke up to the news of her little angel’s death, love defined and then taken away. Was this retribution? But for what she wondered. Hadn’t she done the right thing? Hadn’t she chosen the noble path?
These questions followed her, they were the ghosts of the choices she had made, betrayals of the beliefs she had believed. Donna never returned home after losing her daughter. She applied for a music teachers position at a school in Singapore, the link had popped up while she was browsing, “far far away”, one evening on her aunts kitchen table. She needed to escape the pain and find peace away from an artificial paradise.
She continued up the stairs as the spectre continued out the door, a tear fell from her left eye, and then with a swifter pace she reached her designated room. Her room was the same, the walls were still a faded blue, and the single bed and tiny white study desk had stood the test of time. Donna had been kind of a minimalist as a kid; she had never had posters on her walls, strings of lights or anything besides the basics, she remembered wanting but never asking. She didn’t sleep that Friday night.
In the morning the light broke through the white lace curtains, shining a dreamy mirage on her face, her cheeks were traced in meandering salt and her sheets were drenched in watery sorrows. She showered and then changed into a knee a high plain black dress, it wasn’t the most beautiful of dresses, but paired with her flat pumps, it was the kind of clothing that had a heart. Her mother’s dress was black satin, which she wore with white silk gloves and two-inch high hills, for a woman of seventy-one; she still possessed the radiance of her fifties.
Her aunt had told her of her father’s passing. Donna had last spoken to him the day she left twenty-four years ago, and could have decided against attending the funeral, but she felt convicted to come, and she had yearned for closure, for a way to send off her hatred, maybe her father’s grave could offer her that kindness. Her aunt had been living with Louise, Donna’s mother, and Peter for the last three years, so Hilo was the only option she had. She thought of a lodge, but thought she would rather face her mother if she was to get true closure.
The three ladies sat in gloomy silence as the car approached the old Presbyterian Church that had once been under her father’s stewardship. The service was highlighted in speeches from old friends and family members, all praising his many sacrifices. Bitterness danced around Donna’s heart for a moment, but then she thought of her own failings and exhaled the dancing emotion out. At the end of the service, she stood by his coffin and slipped a note into the side pocket of his dark suit; she followed the terrain of his face and left a kiss on his wrinkled four head. It read, “I forgive you.”
They reached the cemetery at noon, the petrichor still lingering in the air. Maybe the dead were responsible for this peaceful scent Donna thought to herself, their small gift to those they left behind. Perhaps it was her child that brought her back, perhaps it was her baby that was part of this Hawaiian air, she made a movement to grab it, but her hands slipped through the void. Her father was lowered six feet, and along with him her hatred. She could never love him, but she could feel that she no longer hated him either. And that Saturday night, as she packed her small suitcase, she resolved to think of all the things he could have done right and repainted her image of him in all these possibilities.
The following morning, she quietly said her goodbyes to her aunt and then headed towards the kitchen to do the same to her mother.
“I’ll be going soon, the driver should be here anytime” she said in a voice that wanted to say more
“You’re not going to have breakfast?” she replied in a tone Donna had never heard before, as if she was about to cry.
“I’ll probably buy something on my way to the airport” she said, faking calmness in her tone.
A sound like that of a car was heard entering the driveway.
“Donna!” shouted Louise as her daughter opened the door; “what was her name?” her tears now more visible in the glossy morning light the door had welcomed.
“Donna. Her name was Donna.” She said with a smile coupled with tears.
Her luggage was hurriedly ordered in the boot with the taxi’s engine singing the ballad of goodbye. She held the door open for a moment, looking back at her mother who sat crying on one of the stools that decorated the porch. Getting into the taxi she tossed a kiss back to her mother, a kiss that harbored the hatred she had left, and all the loathing, blame and disappointed expectations that had accompanied her for most of her life. She could never love her, not in the way a daughter loves her mother, but, as the taxi cruised down the mountains of her childhood, with that familiar scent speaking proverbs to her heart, she realized that freedom was all that mattered.