I hadn’t seen him in two weeks, not since the night that he and mom fought.
That night, Tommy and I had cowered in the corner, hidden behind the worn recliner. We could hear the shouts, the anger, and the unmistakable sound of skin striking skin. The door slammed behind him as he stormed from the house, got in his truck and left. My mother’s sobs drowned out my own.
Those sounds still echoed in my mind the next morning, when mom bundled us up in the yellow Cavalier and drove us across town to Grandma’s house. I was scared, but tried to be strong. Mom could hardly deal with my little brother’s tears. She didn’t need mine adding to her pain.
Grandma’s old Victorian sat at the corner of Elm and Pine.
“Well, Martha, what a lovely surprise.” Grandma’s smile changed to concern when she noticed the luggage.
“We need somewhere to stay for a while.”
“Come in, come in!” Grandma opened the door wider and ushered us into the house. She whisked Mama away to the kitchen while Tommy and I were sent to the blue room, to put away our things. My brother lay down on one of the single beds and stared at the ceiling.
“Are they going to get a divorce?” His question echoed my own fears.
I sat down beside him, and stroked his blond hair; just like mom always did when we were scared. “No,” I said trying to convince myself, “they just need some time apart.”
“Like we did, last week, when I jumped on your head in the leaf pile?”
“Yeah. Just like that.” But it wasn’t like that at all. Not really. This was so much bigger, so much worse.
Tommy calmed. I could feel the tension leave his body as I continued to stroke his hair. I looked at the tall maple tree, just outside the window. Only a few scarlet leaves held stubbornly to the branches. I felt like one of those leaves, stubbornly holding on to some kind of hope. Things would work out, they had to work out.
Tommy drifted off to sleep.
That was two weeks ago, and in those two weeks my hold on hope began to slip. Each day the “time apart” seemed to make things worse as the distance between my parents grew. I missed Dad a lot, but Mom wouldn’t let him come see us. She wouldn’t even talk to him when he called. I wondered if we would still be a family at Christmas.
Tommy was the first to notice the green truck pull into the driveway. We had been playing with Legos in the blue room. My father stepped out of the truck, dressed in his Sunday best, a large bouquet of roses in his hand. My little brother rushed toward the door, but I grabbed his arm. I shook my head. Tommy seemed to understand, and we stood silently at the window watching Daddy walked to the house.
Only one leaf still clung to the maple.
But one was enough.
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