Sadie Detlor, a widow, slipped out of the assisted living facility unnoticed. Lovingly placed there a year ago by her four children, she was now aboard a bus, going home, running away.
Soon the bus pulled over and stopped at a long stretch of dirt road that ended at a farmhouse at the top of a hill. “Detlor Road,” the busman cried.
Easing out of the bus, Sadie stood alone on the hot blacktop. A gush or warm wind billowed her dress. A black and white For Sale sign, next to the dirt road swung and creaked in the air.
Four dogwoods, each planted at the birth of her children, bloomed and shaded the road. White dandelion spores danced over the red dirt like winter snow fairies.
Sadie breathed the sweet smell of hay lingering in the June air and a smile whispered across her lips. She squinted up to the abandoned farmhouse some 300 yards in the distance. It appeared faded, drained of color. The wide, Victorian porch, once a proud pristine-white had turned an ash-gray. A clematis that once climbed its lattice appeared parched and dead.
Her heart raced as she drew near, eyes darting from door to windows, ears keened to the slightest noise. But no shadows darkened any portal and no sound escaped from behind the walls. Void and stillness, indifferent companions of loss, embraced her as she passed a cracked, dried birdbath and ascended to the porch.
Wearied, Sadie rested on the top step, its clapboards groaning a welcome to her slight frame. A bramble from the trailing clematis teased her hair. Brushing it away, she was pulled back sixty years to a few weeks after her wedding day.
“I planted the clematis as a trellis,” Frank, her husband said, “to shade the porch. When they bloom they’ll smell of vanilla, like you.” He wiped mud on his coveralls and a smile crossed his handsome, sunburned, face. “They’re pink, your favorite color. When they bloom it’ll make the house look as if it’s blushing – like you on our wedding day.” He teased.
Sadie blushed and he jumped up on the porch to twirl her in his arms. “Why Sadie Detlor, that’s not all because we’ll be getting a birdbath to place there,” he pointed to the walkway,” so birds, can drink and bath and feel protected in the thicket of the clematis vines.”
“Robins?” Sadie asked. “It’s the first sign of spring, you know.”
Frank turned her to snuggle in his arms. “Of course robins; and we’ll have kids and our home will be like this vine.” He rocked her gently. “Setting down roots to provide shade and protection. Our love will be like its branches, intertwined, dense and inseparable. And its bloom,” he paused, searching for words, “will all come from you.”
She turned to him, eyes moist. “You are such a poet, Frank Detlor, how lucky a woman am I?”
Frank removed his hat and came down on one knee. “Sadie Detlor, my Queen, I am the lucky one. Your love stirs these words in me. And, as surely as this vine lives to protect and provide so to I vow our love will never die.”
Sadie pulled him up with a long kiss. “I love you, Frank Detlor, my King,” she said.
“Course your helping carry water from that noisy old water pump out back will be greatly appreciated.” He laughed.
On their first anniversary, they bought a birdbath to set along the walk. Soon birds came to drink and bath in the cool water while making nests in the growing vines. And, likewise, their family grew.
Sadie smiled and opened her eyes to the memory. But the tears came and her shoulders trembled as she glanced the emptiness and quiet around her. Solitude, once a gentle companion, cloaked her in a shroud of anguish, stealing light, corrupting hope.
But then a noise, gentle as whisper rent the dark veil. She followed the sound with her eyes and saw a robin flitting within the dried vines. And then another sound, distant, but more familiar - the water pump, creaking out back. She held her breath, to the sound of unforgotten footsteps. Her heart raced; and then finally a voice, “Sadie, my Queen…”
Sadie’s oldest daughter found her mother’s body that evening Later she would tell how at peace her mother appeared on the porch of her home, shaded by the flowering pink clematis, alive with robins singing within its dense, inseparable vines
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