The house sits in the middle of a ripening cornfield outside of Topeka, Kansas. The house is as broad as it is long and is painted winter white. It stands two stories and contains twelve rooms. There is a large veranda with white pillars attached to the front, and its floor is painted green to match the shutters of eighteen identical windows. On either side of the home, two red brick chimneys rise as a pair of matching bookends.
At first glance, one would call the house a sanctuary, if not a fortress, against the cares and concerns of everyday life. But such havens, it seems exist only in our minds; and, to the sentimental - only in their hearts. Neither seemingly to ever become a more certain defense against more certain realities.
The veranda faces south so that those sitting in its cool shadows might take respite from long summer days and watch the arcing of the sun overhead. White moths, chased by barn swallows, flit across a red dirt road that leads directly from a graying asphalt highway some 500 yards distant.
There is little traffic on the rural road. Occasionally, a sedan or truck will pass. If it is on a Sunday, most likely, it is one family or another headed to church. If it’s during the week, in all likelihood they are headed to town some 15 miles away.
Because of the sun’s reflection off the windows of the passing vehicles, it is sometimes difficult to see that anyone inside is waving or not. To those sitting on the veranda it’s assumed they are and they wave nonetheless.
The house is occupied by Carl, the owner of the ripening cornfield, his wife, Anne and Anne’s widowed mother, Dolores.
At this very moment, it is early morning, the sun; blood red is just peeking over the hills to the east. As yet, no one is sitting on the expansive veranda. Carl is away on business; Anne is out back in the chicken coop, gathering eggs for breakfast and Dolores is upstairs sitting quietly at her vanity.
Upon closer inspection of Dolores’s countenance; and, if one were to believe that private secrets are etched in the lines of our face and our eyes are windows to our souls, then one would surmise to seeing anguish hidden in the folds of her skin and uncertainty beneath the moist glisten of her hazel eyes.
Fully dressed, she appears to avoid her reflection in the oval mirror. A silver brush, with strands of her fine white hair, sets untouched next to a lamp that diffuses a soft, yellow light throughout the room.
Reflectively, she opens a drawer in the vanity and pulls out an envelope - delivered to her yesterday. Upon touching it, her heart quickens causing a subtle blush to her cheeks. She bites her lips; and, as she re-reads the neatly penned message, her hands tremble. She draws a breath in an attempt to abate the flood of tears that brim her eyes.
A picture is enclosed with the letter. A single snapshot of a woman, who at first glance, would appear to be Anne; but she knows it’s not.
The house is quiet but for the ticking of an old grandfather clock sitting in the curved arc of the spiral staircase leading from the foyer to the upstairs landing. The sound of the backdoor creaks and fills the void between the tick and the tock of the swinging pendulum.
“Mom? Are you up? I’ll have breakfast ready in a jiffy.”
Dolores faces herself in the mirror. Purposefully she runs the silver brush through her hair. She rises, bringing with her the photo and letter.
“Yes, dear, I’ll be down in a moment.”
“Tea or coffee?”
“Coffee, please.” She calls down, glancing out her window that overlooks the veranda. For now, the asphalt roadway is empty. “There’s something we need to discuss.”
Later, Dolores and her daughter sit together on the veranda, watching the road. Anne holds the letter and photo in one hand, with the other, she tightly holds her mom’s.
A car turns down the drive. Because of the glare on the windshield all that can be seen on the glass is the reflection of a few cumulous clouds above. The car stops, the door opens and a woman, a stranger, exits. She looks at them expectantly.
Dolores rises, tears brimming her eyes, arms outstretched in welcoming. Anne glances at the photo and back at the woman and smiles.
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