The wind whistled as it blew through the crack in the car window. The coldness seeped in as if the blanket I huddled in was drenched by the outside rain. Mama was driving. I didn’t know where we were headed. Mama just kept answering my questions with a whispered, “Somewhere.” As if it was a surprise and if she spoke to loud it wouldn’t happen.
Jilly was asleep next to me wrapped in her cocoon. A sneeze escaped from the wooly mass. If she was as cold as me she was freezing. I scooted closer to her and wrapped her in my arms.
“I’m hungry James,” she whispered so as not to worry Mama about feeding us. We both knew Mama had little money. Daddy always took it and spent it at the local bar. Then he would come home drunk and took out all his failures on Mama. Her face still wore the bruises from Daddy’s last outburst.
So the next night, Mama gathered us up with as much stuff as she could fit in the junky old car and off we drove to “somewhere.” All night I thought over and over where that place could be. I couldn’t figure what Mama meant so I just huddled deeper and patted Jilly closer into my blanket. Hoping that it brought her some comfort to the questions in her eyes and the hunger pains in her belly.
It was getting close to evening by the time Mama pulled in front of a little house. We were out of Missouri by now. This place looked strange and clean. There weren’t ram shacked houses, or broken down cars in the driveway.
“Stay here a minute,” Mama said.
We remained silent as Mama shut the squeaky car door. She headed up a leaf covered walk towards the little house with twinkly lights hanging outside. Jilly and I watched as Mama reached the door and paused a moment as if she were scared. She finally knocked as I held my breath in curiosity.
The door opened and I exhaled. The window began to fog since we practically had our noses pressed against it. I wiped it with my hand causing the glass to smudge with the mixture of dirt and moisture. We couldn’t see anything now just a distorted view of the world, which in a sense was all too familiar to Jilly and me both.
Mama seemed to take forever before we heard the crunch of leaves again. She opened our side of the door and pushed the front seat forward so she could see us.
“Come get your things,” was her order, but there was something in her voice I had never heard before and it scared me. Not only that but Mama had tears in her eyes and that always meant bad news.
My heart began to pound and my empty stomach felt queasy as the bile rose to my throat. I didn’t want to get out of the car but I obeyed Mama and helped Jilly out. I grabbed her hand not willing to let go.
We followed Mama up the steps. I took them more slowly so Jilly’s four year old legs could catch up.
“Where are we Mama?” I dared to ask.
She looked down at me and gently touched my cheek. It felt wonderful.
“We’re home James.”
Mama led us in the house where she began to talk with some people. I heard talk of rent and a job. It made me wonder if Mama knew where “somewhere” was all along.
The wind blew through the room since I had left the door open. The breeze swept over me and in a sense brought in the peace as it washed away the uneasiness of the past. The stench of my boyhood was gone and replaced with a sweet innocence I had never known before.
Jilly looked at me wide eyed and nervous.
“Its okay Jilly, we’re home.”
“Where’s Daddy?” Her little voice asked in fear.
“Not her Jill, he’s “somewhere” else.
The bad memories would fade like the bruises overtime. And tonight we would be in a place where we didn’t have to lay awake in fear for what Daddy might do. No tonight we could fall asleep to the rustle of leaves and the silence that peace brings. We may not have got Christmas presents this year that were wrapped in pretty paper, but we were given something far greater, a home.
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