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by Katerina Charisi
2016-11-13 08:52:30
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Spring was on its way and though things hadn’t changed much, a brilliant blue sky in the mornings cheered me up. The muddy swamp became my beautiful lake again and I spent hours looking at it from the front porch; the dirt road all the way down, the trees and their dark tops, the water shining under the sun. There was no one in the house except for Cornelia. Frances and Jacob went to Jacksonville, Marianne and Brad were almost ready to move out, Michael was working somewhere in the fields helping Sam, and I was left alone for maybe the first time since I got here.

Suddenly I missed my parents. I knew what I was missing though, was not what I had, but all the things I didn’t have and wished I had. My parents and I were never really close. I missed the connection that families have, even the Myers, though most of the times their connection was so tight that was suffocating them- and me- it was the feeling that they always knew they had each other.

em00001_400_01I wish I could just get in a car and go away; nowhere in particular, nothing to do, just go away. “You have to learn to drive those things, dear”, Frances said once. “I never did; and look at me now, I can’t do a thing without having someone around to take me here and there.”

“I don’t want to”, I said. I didn’t know why. I just didn’t like it. Deep inside me I was afraid to try it. My mind was wandering in everything and nowhere all the time, I liked watching everything else when in a car, except for the road, I thought I would probably day dream out of habit and drive myself on a tree.

“Let me tell you something, child. Life is tough out here and men, well,” she said and took a deep breath, like weighting the words before letting them out, “men don’t like staying at home. For us women, it’s different, there are always things to do in the house, we can sit and stare at the walls lost in our thoughts, there is always something to be done, dust here, laundry there, food to store, but men? They just know they have to do something from this time to that time and when they’re done, they want their time to spend as they wish. They go out. I never learned how to drive and it’s all my fault and I regret it every day, don’t do the same mistake”.

“Michael drives the car”, I insisted. Frances took her hands in mine and I swallowed a knot in my throat and didn’t know why. Most of the times I felt alone and left out, but at times Frances seemed to really care and showed it with little things like this; like when she took my hands in hers.

“Jacob is a difficult man to live with. Solid and rough as a rock. There were times he left and missed for days, leaving me here alone with three little kids and an old woman, no way to call for help if anything happened. I once carried Michael all the way through the old path in the woods to the town, in the rain, to get him to the doctor, has he told you about that?”

I shook my head.

“Well I did. And I found Homer right when I put my feet out of the path, and he saw me soaked in water with the baby under my wet coat and put me in his car and...” she sighed. “It was one of my worst moments. I wouldn’t know what I would do if something went bad. If Homer didn’t drive me all the way to New Orleans, because the doctor wasn’t in town that day. Where was Jacob? No one knows. He came back three days later, said he‘d been to Orleans, I know he was just drinking himself to death and I decided I wouldn’t let this happen again. He said he was sorry a thousand times, but truth is, that my baby could have died out there that day if that man wasn’t just staring at the woods the same moment I came out, feet burning, sweat mixed with the rain running down my face and a baby burning in fever under my wet clothes.”

I felt so bad about her. I regretted for all the times I hated her and her house when I couldn’t get myself together.

 “Not putting myself behind the wheel was a desperate move, my way to protest against my fate, the only way I could think of to keep Jacob at home. If he knew I was able to manage on my own, he would never stop doing this. Grandma told me- and I still remember those words after 26 years, “If you do this, if he knows you can drive, you lost him forever. He won’t bring you a single pack of sugar at home, if he knows you can go by yourself and get it. Don’t do him that favour. He needs to know that you need him back here”. And she was right. He felt so bad for what happened, that he never left us again. He did go in town almost every night, but came back after a couple of hours. Now he’s too old for this anyway.”

“What if...” she raised her hand as reading my thoughts, “Michael is not like his father? Bradford either. I would never let my boys behave to their women like this. Do it for yourself. To escape a little. Make some friends, spend some time out of this house. It will do you no good staying here waiting for your husband to come home. You need a life of your own”.

I remembered Emily then. Emily was my only friend out here. And I was the only one who ever saw her. Manon had said that the only Emily she knew, was lost almost 30 years ago.

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