This week: A woman thinks she might be living next door to her grandson.
She woke to the sound of a woman shouting. “Living room!” “Kitchen!” That new family must be moving in next door. Rose, her neighbor across the street, knew everything about everyone, and had informed her just last week that it was a family of five moving in. She was worried how much noise three children would make. Rose didn’t know their ages but thought the oldest was a teenager. She liked the quiet street; it was a big reason she chose this home, 10 years ago now. But she found herself wondering about them too, what they looked like, how they acted with each other, who was boss, who was baby, who was daddy’s girl or mommy’s boy. She hoped the family were clean and didn’t like to party too much. She would turn 67 in two months time and didn’t want or need any disturbance in her peaceful existence.
Coffee on her front porch sounded good. Then she could observe without being too obvious.
The big moving van was parked in front of their house, and she noticed with approval, was not blocking her driveway. It looked like bedroom furniture was being unloaded at this point. She rocked herself in her porch swing and watched through the leaves of her big oak tree. I hope they like my tree as much as I do. The tree was firmly on her property but it did cast a shadow onto theirs; she suddenly panicked as she thought of how she could bring herself to trim it if they asked her too. Best not to worry about such as hasn’t happened yet, she sternly told herself. Still she drank and watched.
About half an hour later a minivan drove up and three children tumbled out of the side. She could just make out two girls and one boy, through the green leaves and the various legs and torsos of moving people. She thought the boy looked to be the youngest. A man got out of the van, presumably the dad, as a woman, presumably the mom, had been directing the furniture and box traffic all morning. Mid-40s, she would say, looked like a professional. The kids were standing around, trying to figure out what they should be doing. Dad ushered them inside. And it was time for her to go inside too. The pies for the church sale wouldn’t bake themselves. She didn’t hear much of anything from her new neighbors for the rest of the day.
She made four pies that day and towards noon the next she made the decision to give the blueberry one to her new neighbors. It wouldn’t hurt to make the first gesture of friendliness, to set a good example. She wrapped the pie in a tea towel and headed across the lawn. Their house wasn’t so very different than her own; the same wide front porch, but without the swing. That will change, she thought. In her experience children couldn’t resist a swing.
She tried the doorbell but didn’t hear the reassuring tinkle within, so she opened the screen door and knocked three times. The door opened and a woman was standing there, a wine glass in one hand and a towel in the other. “Hello! My name is Charlotte, I live next door. I don’t want to bother you but I made this pie and thought you might like it.”
The woman’s face broke into a brilliant smile. “Omigosh thank you so much! Please come in.”
“Oh I don’t want to interrupt.”
“Not at all! The place is a mess but come in and meet the rest of us.” So Charlotte crossed the threshold. Boxes everywhere, most still unopened. Dishes on the drying rack in the kitchen. “I’m Dana and this is my husband, Bruce.” Bruce said hello through a mouthful of nails and put down his hammer to shake Charlotte’s hand. “And these are our girls, Laura and Natasha.” The girls were mini-versions of Dana, with some Bruce thrown in. Golden haired with big blue eyes, Charlotte judged Laura to be about 12 and Natasha 8. “Please sit down. Look Bruce, Charlotte made us a pie! Oh it smells like heaven. Won’t you have a cup of coffee? We just found the mugs. Only took us half an hour and three boxes!”
So Charlotte stayed and met the Webster family. After about a half hour of talk about the schools in the area, and being shown the craft project that Laura and Natasha were working on, a tiny figure wrapped in a blanket softly padded his way into the kitchen. As he climbed into Dana’s lap, she introduced him. “Charlotte, this is Tommy. He is our foster child. He’s been living with us since he was 6 months old.” The 6 year old stared at Charlotte with big brown eyes. His dark hair contrasted sharply with Dana’d blonde curls. When Dana encouraged him to say hi she was rewarded with a barely audible “Hello.” Charlotte, on the other hand, couldn’t speak at all. In fact she was having difficulty breathing and there was a furious pounding in her ears. She mumbled something about getting back, left something on the stove, sorry to cut this short. She stumbled out of there, embarassed and gasping for breath. Dana called out, “Thanks again for the visit. And the pie!” but Charlotte was halfway across the lawn, almost running into her house. Once there she collapsed onto her sofa and burst out crying. It couldn’t be, it couldn’t, the boy was only 6, just a baby. But that face! Those eyes, even his ears, exactly the same!
She glanced at the piano in the corner, where a single photo stood in an ornate silver frame. “James, oh my beautiful James, what is happening?” Charlotte whispered. The photo, taken when her only son was 6 years old, could be Tommy’s twin. Charlotte moved to the piano, picked up the photo, tears streaming. She studied the face so intimately known to her, and it was as if James had just run out the front door, of that long ago house on Maple Street, so excited on his first day of school, never to return. He had been abducted at the age of 7, on his way to school. She and James had practiced the route so many times yet she was so very reluctant to let him walk alone. But he insisted. The school was only around the corner, so Charlotte would watch until he disappeared and then phone the school to make sure he got there. That was how she had found out so quickly that terrible day 40 years ago; she watched him turn the corner, waited 10 minutes, then phoned the school. He hadn’t yet arrived. She called back 10 minutes after that and by then she was panicking. The school secretary started walking toward Charlotte’s house and Charlotte also started walking; they met at the corner and both knew something was wrong. James had disappeared. The police dogs were called in, alerts were put up on the television, groups of volunteers canvassed the neighborhood for clues. No trace of her beautiful baby was ever found.
Forty years missing was a very long time and she had given up ever learning anything about her son’s disappearance. Until today. Tommy looked so much like James it was frightening. Dana had said he was their foster child. Could he somehow be related to her James? And therefore to her? They must have records of his birth parents, where they were, what their situation was, alive or dead. The thought brought another fresh set of tears that left her gasping. Could it be possible that after all these years there was a clue? That he might still be alive?
She knew she had to try.
Next week: A man giving a speech to a crowd of thousands is suddenly caught in a bald-faced lie.
This is the latest exercise in my 642 Things to Write About Project. Click on the link to find out more, or click on the category 642 Things to Write About Project to read past exercises. 🙂