Drama Fiction Sad

Exit eighty-three appeared quicker than Frankie had remembered. She merged to the right, ascending the hill that overlooked her hometown. It was nostalgic when she caught the first glimpse, although it was different than when she was a child. What was once a small, quiet community had become quite the tourist attraction- well known for its mighty pines, towering rock faces, and lakeside cottages. Frankie had to agree it was the perfect getaway for the bustling city folk, but it had lost the familiar comfort to her. She was caught off guard when she found herself stopped at a busy three-way intersection at the bottom of the hill. A traffic light had been installed where the highway exit met the main drag through town. She shook her head gently. 

Her childhood home was set back on a quiet road where the tourists hadn’t yet invaded. Pinedale Road was aptly named, and she felt the comfort returning as she drove amid the lofty pines. An unsettling emotion surfaced as she reached the final stretch, where she would arrive at her destination. While everything in the heart of town was new-fashioned, the familiar houses she once admired were apparently neglected. Many were dilapidated and condemned- adorned with tattered front porches and rusty chain-link fences. Frankie furrowed her brow. Her mother had never expressed such conditions when they spoke a year prior. It had been the last time she heard her voice.

Pulling into the driveway, she put the car in park and let out a remorseful sigh. The fact that the house was in better shape than the rest of them eased her slightly. But the swaying for sale sign was a lost cause. She stepped out of the car and gave the house a look over. Weather and time had stained the white siding brown in an ombre fashion, much darker near the ground. She circled around the front of her car to the attached garage. Wiping a small area of murkiness from the window, she peered inside. Her mother’s Volkswagon Jetta consumed most of the space. Random tools and paint cans were scattered upon the narrow metal shelving on either side. It had been twenty-two years since she had set foot in the house.

The flimsy door popped as she entered the enclosed front porch, taking in the familiar stale odor. Even though her mother had always cracked the windows when she smoked, the smell still lingered in the house. She bent down and lifted the corner of the welcome mat to retrieve the key. A tinge of anxiety rose in her as she unlocked the front door, afraid of what she may find. Her mother hadn’t been well when she left for college- a then resentful eighteen year old. 

Frankie was relieved. Although the house was cluttered with knick-knacks and artificial plants, it was tidy. The walls were burgundy, with a cream-colored accent wall. The small living room felt warm. A few steps across the living room led to the eat-in kitchen. It looked exactly the same as she remembered. She had spent many silent meals with her mother at the round table for two. The dated yellow laminate flooring was peeling up where it met with the walls, but otherwise, it was in decent shape. 

Frankie’s bedroom was off of the kitchen, with a thick rustic curtain on a shower rod closing it in. She held the curtain to the side and entered the small space. The twin bed in the corner was neatly made and across from it was her desk. The closet on the opposite side of the room was packed with boxes. She sat down on the bed and closed her eyes.

Frankie could hear her mother crying- sobbing, actually. When she was little, she would crawl into her mother’s bed and nuzzle into her back as she heaved. Every once and a while, she would turn over and embrace her.

“What’s wrong, Mommy?”

“Mommy is just sad. I’m sorry, Frances.”

She remembered the feeling of her mother’s wet cheek as it pressed against her forehead. She was all that Frankie had, and she adapted- finding comfort in her mother’s trembling arms. 

Frankie got used to doing things alone. The older she got, the more responsibility she assumed. Once Frankie learned to ride a bike, her mother would send her off on errands with some cash and a list. This terrified her at first, and she often turned to the elderly locals for assistance at the grocery store. But she did what was asked of her.

By eleven, she was an adequate cook. She would fix up spaghetti and set the table. Her mother would drag herself out of the bedroom, butting out her cigarette before sitting across from Frankie at the table.

“Thank you, sweetheart.”

They would eat silently then her mother would retreat back to her room. Frankie would do the dishes and then retreat to hers, losing herself in a book. 

The resentment crept in during adolescence. Frankie had become quite the pianist after discovering an old keyboard in the attic. She entered her high school talent show.

“Mom? Can I come in?” Frankie called quietly, tapping on her mother’s bedroom door. 

“Yes, dear,” she replied.

Frankie opened the door slowly, peeking her head in. 

“I’m going to be in the talent show on Friday. I’m playing the piano. Do you think you’d be able to come?”

Her mother had never come to any of her chorus concerts. She had a solo her seventh-grade year. Promising that she would come, Frankie stepped forward and scanned the crowded auditorium for her. She performed her piece and received roaring applause. Frankie smiled, sure that her mother was lost in the sea of faces. Afterward, she waited in the parking lot, watching the crowd pour out. There was no sign of her. She walked home in the dark, crying. It was agonizing for her. When she arrived home, she found her mother fast asleep. Frankie never tried out for another solo.

“Yes, certainly, dear.”

When Frankie hit the stage for her performance, she scanned the crowd once more. Another letdown, not unexpected. She missed a flawless rendition of Philip Glass’s Metamorphosis II. It had been an accurate depiction of herself that she wished her mother would have experienced. 

Frankie was Valedictorian her senior year and went on to study at The Royal Conservatory School, where she pursued her musical talents. Her mother was reluctant to let her go. She was in the worst shape that she had ever been in. 

“Mom, I have to do this! I am not staying here forever. I need to move on with my life and make something of myself!” Frankie shouted at the skeletal woman as she loaded her belongings at the front door. 

“Frances, what if something bad happens? What are you going to do? You are not ready to be out on your own. It scares me!” she retorted, flicking her ashes in the kitchen sink. 

“Mother, I have been on my own all of my goddamn life! The only thing you’re scared of is not having a slave! I am done with you, mother! Good riddance!” Frankie scoffed, slamming the front door behind her with luggage in tow. She never got to see her mother’s reaction and never cared to.  

Frankie started to cry as she wrapped up the terrible memories in her mind. She never understood her mother when she was young. At forty-two, she was now able to accept the crippling depression her mother suffered from, having suffered from it herself. 

Frankie coped differently. Growing up alone and self-sufficient, she strived for excellence- determined and resilient. She put herself through school, traveled the world, performed her art, and lived a humble, abundant life. It had all started in that house, with her mother.

Her mother was dead now- stage four lung cancer. Frankie wiped her tears. She left her childhood bedroom and walked around the corner to her mother’s room. The door was open, and she peeked in. The tears began to fall once more. Pinned to the wall were newspaper clippings, show venues, and interviews that Frankie had been a part of. On her side table, a five by seven smiling photo of them wrapped in a faded gold frame. 

She left the house, locking the door behind her. The agent was waiting outside. 

“I am sorry for your loss, Ms. Corbin. Do you have plans for the contents of the house?” the suited man inquired in a monotone voice.

“No, sir. You can clear it out. Thank you for coming,” Frankie replied softly.

“Certainly, ma’am. Have a nice day.”

Frankie drove back through town, feeling like she had been freed of some kind of deep-rooted pain. She arrived at the new stoplight-twenty cars deep. Letting out a sigh, Frankie reached into her purse and pulled out the five by seven photo. She brought it to her forehead and let a tear roll down her cheek. 

“I love you, Mother. Thank you.”

November 25, 2020 00:14

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