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TITLE: The Long Journey Home Revised 8/16/14
By R. Jamerson

This is the first chapter of a proposed book
Sally sat motionless, staring out the window. The red and gold leaves danced in the wake as the bus sped along the highway. The burgundy stocking cap, pulled low over her face, all but hid her blonde hair. Fall was Sally’s favorite time of the year; but today her mind wasn’t on the beauty of the countryside. How can things change so much in only six weeks? It’s not fair. Her thoughts took her back in time to a totally different bus ride.

She closed her eyes and could see the dilapidated school bus as it rattled to a stop. Skipping down the steps, she paused at the last one before jumping to the ground. I’ve survived my second week of being a high school freshman. Freshman, what a weird word; I wonder what it means. Oh well, who cares? I’m in high school! She twirled around, feeling happier than she had been in a long time.

“Hey Sally.” Chris’s voice jolted Sally back to reality. “I thought we were going to plan our strategy for getting out of the house tonight!"

“Oh yeah,” Sally furrowed her eyebrows. “What are we supposed to be doing again?”

Chris elbowed her arm. “Seriously, you don’t remember my poor, sick grandmother who needs our help?”

Wagging her finger in her friend’s face, Sally laughed. “Chris Stacy! You don’t even have a grandmother.”

“Right, but your mother doesn’t know that,” quipped Chris.

“Well that might work, but I don’t know. My mother is always suspicious. I wouldn’t be surprised to wake up some morning and find bars on my window. You’d think I was a criminal.”

“Your mother’s is a trip; on the other hand, my mother doesn’t care where I go as long as I am home before 11:00. Hey, did you see that new boy Johnny Barrow? Julie said he always comes to the “Den.” Maybe he will be there tonight.”

“Yeah, that would be great If I’m able to get out of the house. Mom has been so grumpy lately.”

“Do you ever hear from your dad, Sally” asked Chris?

Trembling, Sally exhaled slowly as the smile left her lips. She had her face so Chris couldn’t see the tears welling up in her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” offered Chris. “I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

Sally recovered her composure. “No, I don’t hear from him,” she responded. “Thanks to Mom, he left.” For a brief moment, Sally felt a twinge of guilt. Why did Davie have to leave me all alone with Mom. Besides he was only sixteen; he never should’ve left. Visions of Davie storming out of the house two years ago flooded Sally’s mind. It’s all Moms’ fault. If she would’ve stopped nagging him about his friends or didn’t bug him about going to Church with her, he’d still be here. Maybe I should’ve escaped with him.

The two girls ran laughing down the path to the railroad tracks.

Chris waved to Sally. “Don’t forget now – my sick old grandmother. I’ll check with you after dinner to see how you made out,” she yelled, disappearing over the hill.

Sally stood looking after her for a moment. “I wish I had a mom like Chris’s,” she mumbled. “She gets an allowance. That will be the day, when I get an allowance. We are always broke.”

Shaking the unpleasant thoughts from her mind, Sally turned and started toward the old, white frame house. It wasn’t much to look at, in a hollow by the railroad tracks, sitting at the foot of a steep hill. There was a long, covered porch with a swing, and Sally did love that swing. It was her favorite place to be. There she could dream about places she wanted to go, things she wanted to do, and pretend to be rich and famous. It was also where she went when she was sad or lonely. The sound made by the chains on the metal hooks was irritating to some, but strangely comforting to Sally. The best time of all was when it rained. The steady rhythmic sound on the tin roof overhead would drown out everything, and allow her to retreat into a world of her own. Realizing the Greyhound bus had stopped, Sally’s thoughts returned to the present.

The burly driver barked down the aisle, “Chow Time!”

Suddenly everyone was chattering away as they made their way toward the door. Sally remained in her seat. The last thing she wanted right now was to have someone ask a lot of questions. When the last passenger disappeared down the steps, Sally reached inside her canvas bag for the sandwich Ms. Harmon had placed there. Peanut butter & jelly had always been her favorite but today it was tasteless. After a few bites she returned it to the bag. Leaning back against the smooth vinyl of the seat, Sally allowed her mind to return once again to the events of that fateful day.

She sprinted through the pine thicket and screeched to a halt; a puzzled look came over her face. There were cars, lots of cars at her house! What is going on, she thought. Why are all these people here? Sally’s heartbeat so hard, it felt as if it would burst.

She ran faster now, across the lawn and up the steps. The old screen door groaned in protest as Sally yanked it open and stepped inside. She was about to yell, “Mom,” when she froze!
The room was full of people. She recognized some of them as neighbors. Her attention focused on a chair in the corner of the room where her mother sat. Her head back, eyes closed, she was not moving. Her face looked funny and she was drooling from the corner of her mouth.
She’s dead, thought Sally, as her brain responded to what she saw. Mrs. Harmon was behind the chair wiping her mother’s brow with a white cloth. Just as quickly her consciousness analyzed the scene and responded, she can’t be dead because dead people don’t sweat. She tried to speak but the words wouldn’t come out, “Whaaa…Whaaa…”

Mrs. Harmon spoke softly, “I came over to return your mother’s bowl. I knocked and waited. Then I heard a crash inside. I called to her but she didn’t answer. Your grandmother was on her porch; she came running over and opened the door for me. At first we thought your mom had tripped over something so we helped her into a chair. Now I am afraid she may have had a stroke. We called 911. The ambulance will be here shortly.”

Sally collapsed in a nearby chair. A stroke, the silence seemed to scream at her but she still couldn’t get a word out. How a thirty-nine year old woman could have a stroke, she thought. Those things just happen to old people!
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