Finding the Way Home

Ann Stolfa

 

 

She absentmindedly watched her son playing in the yard, the newspaper forgotten in her hand; she was lost in memory.Lord, could it have been ten years already?

 

Her thoughts were on the autumn night he was brought into her fatherís office, being the only doctor for miles around, there wasnít any other choice.She had half-way fallen in love with him before he even regained consciousness, his dark hair falling down on his pale face.When he opened his eyes for the first time, she had fallen into their dark brown depths and never gotten out, or wanted to.She thought he felt the same way about her, eventually.They had talked through the many days and nights he was recovering, becoming friends, sharing their fears and hopes and dreams.Their friendship turned into something deeper, more spiritual yet more physical, as time went by and he was able to get up and move around.Though unspoken, they both knew this meant it was closer for his time to leave; he was a wanted man and it put both of them in danger for him to stay in one place for any length of time.

 

She remembered the night he left as if it was yesterday.

 

ďStay.Ē

 

ďCome with me.Ē

 

They spoke at the same time, both wanting it to be possible, but knowing it couldnít be.He cupped her face in his hands, kissed her gently, once on the lips, once on the forehead and then he was gone.She cried softly as he left, knowing he had changed her forever, she just didnít comprehend at the time how much.

 

The next year was hard.Her father disowned her, but she managed to find a home withsympathetic relatives in another town.They passed her off as a recent widow and no one really asked any questions.It also helped explain the sad smile she always had on her face, which deterred most of the men who would have courted her, and that was fine with her.None of them ever struck her fancy anyway, mostly because they could never measure up to him.

 

It got easier to manage over time.She trained to be a nurse, and was a good one, a fine upstanding member of the community.Eventually she made a home for herself and her son.She was reasonably happy and content, as long as she didnít explore that place in her heart that would always belong to him, and if she couldnít keep the memories at bay on some long, lonely nights, well, it was a small price to pay.††† This was enough for her, or so she thought until the day she saw the article about their amnesty in the newspaper.

 

Reading his name struck her like a blow to her stomach.All the memories came rushing back.†† The silkiness of his hair as she brushed it off his forehead; the smoldering look in his eyes when she knew he was going to kiss her; the closeness they shared as they talked all night; things she hadnít thought of in years; things she hadnít wanted to think of because it hurt too much.She stood at the window for a long time, watching her son, but not really seeing, until he came in wanting supper, bringing her back to the present and her responsibilities.She used all the resources and strength she had developed over the last ten years to push the memories back into that secret place in her heart.

 

She was sitting up reading late one rainy night a few days later when she heard a knock at the door.Someone needing medical help she thought, not an unusual occurrence for her.When she opened the door, her mind didnít grasp it at first, him standing there, rain dripping off the brim of his black cowboy hat.She did a double-take and would have dropped the lamp she was holding if he hadnít reached out quickly and grabbed it from her hand.They stood there like that for a moment, just staring at each other, not quite believing.

 

He cleared his throat. ďAre you going to invite me in?Ē He asked in a shaky voice, not quite sure of his welcome.

 

It was if the fact that he spoke finally made it real for her.She threw her arms around his neck, alternately laughing and crying, as he finally got in the door and shut it behind him.

 

They spent the rest of the night talking, catching up on years they had lost.She told him about her son, but not that the boy was his.She would tell him eventually, but tonight was theirs alone.

 

As they lay content in each otherís arms just before dawn, they knew they were finally where their hearts had always been; they had both finally found their way home.