Home. Memories of screaming matches, slamming doors, and bitter tears rose on a sour wave of bile.
Stopped in the driveway of the big red brick house, Cathy unglued her fingers one at a time from the steering wheel and put the idling Lexus in reverse.
“Mom, is this Nonna’s house?” ten-year-old Hayley asked.
“Mo-om, are you okay?”
Maybe. If they let us in.
“Just nervous, Hayley sweetie. It’s been a while.” Eleven years since life had driven Cathy away. Now death drew her back.
Through the rear-view mirror, she glimpsed Ryan’s house across the street. Did he still live there?
Low pewter clouds bustled overhead. If only her memory could be cleansed as easily as the rain washed the dusty roads and sidewalks of Clarence Bay.
Sighing hard and deep, Cathy put her car in park and turned off the engine. She climbed out, smoothed her sleeveless pink blouse over her black jeans, and pushed her eyeglasses up her nose. A chilly raindrop splat on her shoulder and ran down her pristine front. She shivered and groaned at the mess.
Hayley giggled. “Better’n bird poop.”
Cathy’s tension eased just enough to permit a wry huff before snapping back like a hard rubber band. Holding hands, they walked up the front path to the deep porch.
“Well, here goes nothing.” Cathy pressed the doorbell with a trembling finger.
“Don’t worry, Mom. It’ll work itself out.”
Cathy’s jumpy gaze skittered over the old house and its property—the neatly mown lawn, the freshly dug garden without a weed in sight, the sparkling windows. Somebody had a great way with yard tools.
The screen door rattled as the inside door opened. Zia Yola, grown softer and rounder in Cathy’s absence, stood gaping at them.
“Ciao, Zia Yola,” Cathy said in Italian and held her breath for her aunt’s reaction.
Zia Yola’s hands fluttered to her pale cheeks, her dark eyes huge above her stubby nails. Her gaze bounced between Cathy and Hayley as if she didn’t quite believe her own sight.
“Are you my grandmother?” Hayley asked.
© Joan Leacott, 2013