Janie turned onto the old gravel road and stopped. The old cruel memories she left thirty years ago came flooding back and made her almost turn around and head back to New York to beg for her job she had just quit a week ago. At that time, she felt it was the right thing to do. Now, she was not so sure.
She had not seen her mother since she left that dreadful day. Now she was getting ready to travel down the long gravel road to take her back home. Why? Janie did not really know.
What pained Janie was the fact her mother would never remember the hell she had inflicted on her. She knew she would walk through that door and see a woman that would not know her and could never even try to forgive what she did to her. Janie knew that was what hurt her the most about coming back.
But she had already come this far and there was no turning back now even if she had wanted. So, she looked out the windshield of her car down the long gravel road and slowly pressed the gas pedal. As she gained speed, she looked to both sides and the sight of all her girlhood hiding places were still visible, although grown over with brush. She was the only one that knew of those places. All of them were sanctuaries that held her safe from the mother that had constantly beat her.
Janie kept driving until the old home place came into view. It still looked the same. The whitewash of the exterior was now a little more gray with age. The old faded rocking chairs were still sitting on the front porch. They were the same ones she remembered as a little girl.
As Janie slammed her car in park, her younger sister came out the front door and stood on the porch. Jackie just stared at her. Janie sat behind the driver's seat looking at Jackie just the same. It was the first time she had seen Jackie in almost as many years since she had left home. There was only one other time Janie had seen Jackie. That was when Jackie came to New York for a visit almost fifteen years ago. Then their mother got sick and well, left only Jackie to tend to her.
Janie opened the door of her car and as she began to step out, Jackie descended the front steps of the porch to greet her older sister. She was already beside Janie's car when Janie slammed the door.
Both sisters looked at each other, smiled, then hugged like sisters would do. Janie could feel Jackie beginning to cry as she held her tight. It had definitely been too long between seeing each other.
"Oh God, Janie, I love you so much! It's so good to finally see you again. I know you didn't want to come. I know this was hard for you."
Janie sighed hard against her sister as they continued to hold each other and she patted her back gently. The words then fell out of her mouth.
"I almost turned around Jackie. I turned onto the gravel road and stopped. I really wondered why I came back. I really should not be here you know? Really, I shouldn't."
Jackie pulled away from her sister but held on to her upper arms and said, "I know. I know Janie. But I know why you came. I know what did not stop you. Yourself. You came here for yourself."
Janie looked at Jackie and just smiled. She could not say anything at all. Janie did not feel that way. That was just her younger sister talking.
"Come on Janie. Lets get you inside. Mom is sitting in the living room knitting at the moment."
"You mean she remembers how?"
"Janie, there are some things she remembers and probably always will, but I'll guarantee, she won't know who you are. She doesn't know who I am more than half the time. Once in a blue moon, she'll get my name right. She's not the same mother you'll remember."
"That's good. I don't want to remember that same mother Jackie," Janie said and started walking to the house with her baby sister.
When Janie stepped into the house, the woman sitting there was not the mother she remembered. Time had taken its toll on her. Who she remembered as a strong willed witch, now looked like a frail little homebody. It was funny what time could do to a person.
Janie, however, had no remorse. She did not feel the least bit concerned that she had missed the change in her mother. For once in her life, the woman who had whipped her with her bare hands, could no longer lift a finger to do so. Somehow, Janie felt like she had that on her mother.
Jackie watched as her sister approached their mother. She was busy knitting quickly as Janie watched her hands delicately maneuver the fine thread through the needles, knotting them together to form strands of beautiful arrangements into what will soon be what looked to Janie an afghan.
Janie walked around slowly to face her mother. Her mother stopped what she was doing and smiled and said, "Oh Katie, you came. It's so nice to see my granddaughter."
Janie looked at her sister Jackie and Jackie motioned in the air with her hand a rolling gesture that let Janie know to go with it.
"Hi granny," Janie said, using the word she had so affectionately called her own grandmother, "yeah, it's me."
"Granny, who you calling granny? Do I know you?"
Janie looked at Jackie not knowing what to do. Jackie walked up and touched their mother on the shoulder and said, "Mom, don't you remember Janie?"
"Janie?" Their mother questioned and looked at her again.
Janie saw the lost look in her mother's eyes. She knew that her mother had no idea who she was. Or so she thought.
"Janie, you're the one that always hid from me. Never knew where you went, but you always came back."
Janie looked at Jackie and wondered if their mother really remembered. Janie was unsure, but she went along with it anyway by answering, "Yeah, I always came back."
"I'm glad you did. And I'm glad you're here now. I've missed you."
"I've missed you too mom," Janie said, although it was a lie.
Janie never missed her mother. She never wanted to see her again. Now she was talking to her own mother after so many years away and the woman did not even know who she was.
And Janie did not feel bad about that all. Her mother never really knew her anyway.
"Well, mom, I'll let you get back to your knitting. I've got to unpack anyway."
"You mean you're staying this time?" Her mother asked.
Janie, without thinking, touched her mother's hand and said, "Yes mom, I'm staying. I came back home."
"Good Katie. I've missed you," her mother answered and began knitting again.
Janie turned and walked over to her sister, looked at her with a very nonchalant look, and picked up her bag. She knew where to take it; upstairs to her old room.
Janie climbed the stairs and walked in to her old room and it had not changed. Everything was still the same. It was as if she had never left. Janie's old room was like a time capsule that only she could open. Even the bed was the same as the day she left. The sheets were still folded back in the crinkled manner she had left them thirty years ago. The room was not musty, but had that old stale scent. The smell also lingered with the leftover scent of Janie's teenage perfume she used to wear.
Janie just stood there. She was shocked.
Jackie came up and leaned against the door molding. She knew what Janie was thinking. She was just waiting for Janie to say it.
Janie knew her sister was behind her. She turned around and looked at Jackie. At first she couldn't say anything. The tears began to flow down her cheeks as she said, "Jackie, I can't stay in here. I'm sorry. It's bringing back too many memories as to why I left."
"I knew you wouldn't be able. You can sleep in my room with me. "
"Ha, I haven't slept with another girl since I slept with you when we were little!" Janie said as she wiped the tear away from her cheek.
"Janie, not in the same bed. I brought in another bed for this reason. But if you want too, you can sleep with me anyway!" Jackie said laughingly.
"Jackie, you've always been too good to me. Way to good. I don't deserve it."
"Janie, someone had to help you with the demons inside you that mom caused."
Janie looked at her sister and wanted to cry again, but she didn't. She just turned to Jackie and took her in her arms.
When she had let Jackie go, Jackie grabbed her sister's bags and walked them to her room; their room now.
Janie turned and walked out her room and down to the front door and out onto the porch. She stood, leaning over the railing, and looked out to the woods she had once called home so many times.
Then Janie walked down the steps. Before she knew it, Janie found herself in one of her former hiding spots.
It was overgrown with new vegetation, but the boundaries were still visible. The metal bucket she used to sit on was still in the same spot. The rocks she had placed in a circle to make a small fire pit were still arranged in the same order untouched. Janie looked to her left and saw the small pile of what used to be twigs and small branches she had used as firewood. They had now rotted into the earth, but the pile was still visible.
Janie sat on the now rusted metal bucket and hoped it did not collapse. She sat there and thought back to when she was younger and she would come out to hide in this spot for a little while and then make another one so her mother would never find her. Even with a fire, her mother never did. That was because her mother never cared.
The bucket began to sink in the middle and Janie stood up. When she did, it tipped over and revealed a plastic sandwich bag underneath it filled with items Janie had forgotten she had placed there. Janie picked up the bag and opened it. She laughed at the first visible thing that caught her eye. It was a tampon.
Janie pulled the bag open. She still smirked as she pulled the tampon out. She didn't know why really. She knew why she had put it there. She had spent many a night in these woods and was never scared doing so. She had to be prepared. She reached back in and pulled out a half empty pack of Camel Lights, a book of matches, a lighter, a couple of band-aids, a pocket knife, and a handful of coins.
Janie looked at the dates on the coins and all of them were late seventies or early eighties. One quarter was from 1983, the year she had left home.
Janie was sixteen then. Now, Janie was forty-six and back home where it all started. And back in the woods where she had so many times found refuge.
Janie looked around and everything was so serene. It was just like the day she had left. She started to walk back to the house. She carried the bag, letting it swing in her hand as she strolled. Mere thoughts of her childhood still ran through her head. The closer she got to the house, the more at ease she became.
But not once did Janie think of her mother as she approached the house. What had been done, was done and was all a part of the past. Of course, she knew her mother was in there. Janie also knew Jackie was too. But none of that mattered.
As Janie stepped on the first step of the porch, she stopped and stood upon it. Janie looked at the old house again. It was just as she remembered when she was little; still like the day she had left. Once she had taken that in again, she took the steps that led her to the front door and stepped inside.
Just as Janie did on the first step of the porch, she looked around on the inside of the house. Nothing had changed inside either. And the stale scent she had left still lingered in the air of the house.
Jackie watched her sister from the doorway of the kitchen. She knew that Janie did not see her. She could see Janie falling back into the past. It caused Jackie to smile actually.
When Janie walked upstairs, she did not go to where her and Jackie were going to share a room. Instead, she walked into her old room and sat down on her old bed. The bag she found in her last hiding place was still in her hand. She took another look at it and plopped it down beside her. Janie sat there and all she could do was look around what she had once called home.
Then Janie began to cry. Not for her mother or her sister. It was not like that at all.
Because she realized she came home for only one person.
It seemed Jackie was right.
Janie had come home for herself.