By Paula Young
As Sarah walked up the wooded hill, the full weight of the events in her life caused her to fall to the ground. She held her breath until she was away from the house and Amy, and now let it all go. She’d never felt so low. Everything she held dear was slipping through her fingers like sand on a beach. She wailed.
Once spent, Sarah sniffed. “What a cliché my life has become,” she thought. She sat up in the weeds, breaking twigs with her fingers. “Tom has hooked up with Donna—some best friend! And there’s no way I can stay here. It’s his farm, his business. Even if I wanted the house, he would always be right there.” She sighed. “Tahiti sounds so good… but not likely, either. What am I going to do? I have Amy to care for. I don’t have anywhere to go! I would stay with Mom and Dad, but the judge said I must remain in this state.” She choked out, “Dear God, please help me!” then she sobbed some more.
When she regained her composure, she wiped her eyes, and dusted herself off and moped back to the house. She knew her daughter would know she had been crying, but it couldn’t be helped.
“Hey, Dumplin’! Let’s go for a drive. “
Amy jumped up and ran to her mom, her ponytail swishing. She was a carbon copy of Sarah, but smaller, and her hair was the color of honey instead of dark brown.
“Are we looking for a new house, Mommy?” asked Amy, her green eyes shining.
“Well, let’s just see what’s available.” One foot in front of the other. That’s how she would survive this. Left foot, right foot…
Sarah had circled several places in the newspaper that were in the nearby town.
“OK, here’s the first one.”
“Mom, it looks like it was once a good idea, but someone forgot about it.”
“I always liked this house from the road. Up close it does appear to be a fixer-upper. More fixer than upper! Let’s try the next one.”
“I love this house! Can we call the realtor?” The neighborhood was full of trees, and the house appeared to be modern, recently built. The pink granite stones appealed to Sarah.
“OK……It’s in bankruptcy, a drug dealer’s house? I’m sorry, but I don’t think we’d be interested. Thank you so much. Whew! Oh my goodness! I wouldn’t want his friends coming by! Where’s the next one?”
“Oh, Mom! It’s beautiful! Let’s look inside!”
Sarah marveled at the beautiful old white house with black shutters. It had more “Gingerbread” than Hansel and Gretel’s house! And look at the porch. She could imagine herself swinging in a porch swing.
“I’ll call the realtor.”
They entered the historic home.
“It has a big living room, and three bedrooms,” advised the realtor.
“Let’s look at the kitchen, Amy.”
“Uh, Mom. What kitchen?”
How had the previous owners lived here? There were a few old metal cabinets, a small stove and refrigerator that must have been made in the 1940’s! Sarah gathered that the house must have had a kitchen in the back at one time, and this was a pitiful attempt to “modernize” a dinette area.
“This would take too much money to renovate.” The cost of the house alone was in Sarah’s upper limit. Sarah and Amy both sighed. “There’s one more on the list.”
“I can show you this one,” said the realtor. “It was owned by a sweet lady with lots of cats.”
“Mom, my ankles are itching,” said Amy as they walked through the yard.
“Mine, too. I think this yard is infested with fleas! Hurry! Run to the car! Wipe your feet and ankles off with these.” Sarah felt defeated. Was she reduced to living in flea-bag of a house?
“Well, I think I’ve reached my limit for today,” sighed Sarah. She took three deep breaths to keep from crying again.
They got back in the car and drove slowly towards what used to be home.
Then she saw the two-lane country road that turned off to South Hallow, which was about 25 miles away. It wound down a hill into the trees. It beckoned her.
“Why not?” thought Sarah.
“I love this road! It makes you want to drive really fast, but then there is a farm machine. And going up and down the hills makes my tummy feel funny.”
“Amy, put your window down. Let’s smell some fresh air.” Their hair blew in the wind. Amy put her hand out the window to hand-surf.
“Look, Mom! The cows are all lying down. Do you know why?”
“Because they’re tired!”
They both laughed at Amy’s 5th grade humor. It felt so good to laugh. It felt good to leave the troubles behind and just drive. Oh, for this road to go on forever and never have to deal with anything!
All too soon they saw the houses and businesses of the village.
“Oh, Mom! Can we stop at the dairy bar?”
“Sure! Let’s get some ice cream. They have the best chocolate!” They sat in the sun at a concrete table with a blue umbrella. Sarah could feel the stresses of the day blowing away with the breeze.
“Sarah! And Amy! I haven’t seen you for ages,” said Rosemary, one of Sarah’s friends. She gave the mother and daughter a hug. “What are you doing here?”
“We’re having a much needed break from browsing for a place to live.”
Rosemary had heard of Sarah’s break-up. She thought a moment.
“There is a new apartment building right around the corner. I think they have a vacancy. I’ll ride over with you.” Rosemary could be a bit pushy, but it was most welcome now. Sarah desperately wanted someone to tell her what to do next.
The women looked at the apartment. It had two bedrooms, a good size living room, a small dinette and adequate kitchen.
“Mom, this isn’t so bad.”
“You could live here for a while?”
“Sure! But can we get a kitten? One without fleas!”
“What about school—your friends?”
“I can make new ones, and still see the old ones. They are not that far away. It’s OK.”
Sarah was so relieved to have the weight of finding a residence for them lifted. This would give Sarah the time she severely needed to regroup and begin the healing process. Amy needed that time, too. This apartment would be close enough for Amy to visit her dad, but far enough away that Sarah wouldn’t run into her husband or her un-best friend. It seemed to be the perfect solution for now.
“I’ll ask the manager, but I think it will be OK!
And in that moment Sarah thought many things would be OK. She had a place to go, and a friend in town, and a feeling that things might be survivable after all. And a happy daughter never hurt! She was thankful for the lure of the rural road and running into her friend.
“I’ll put my desk here, and the cat bed here, and Mom, we’ll need a new shower curtain…..”