From my work in progress tentatively titled Riding the Blind.
July, 1980 – Seven year-old Rachel Linden has just met her grandmother, who has been missing for nearly thirty years, for the first time.
I sprinted up the stairs and all the way to my mother’s room. My scratched up knees knocked together and my bare feet paddled across the wooden floorboards. By the time I reached the end of the hallway I was out of breath, from both the exertion of my wild dash and from the excitement of my supposedly dead grandmother showing up at the kitchen door.
The bedroom door squeaked as I pushed it open. I tiptoed inside careful not to make too much noise. My sister was asleep in the small bassinet near the open window. I put my hand on my mother’s warm shoulder and whispered for her. Her eyes blinked open, and I felt the initial sting of her tired gaze on me.
“What is it Rachel?” she yawned and didn’t bother to cover her mouth, her nostrils flared. Her words edged to anger.
“There is someone downstairs who wants to see you.” My eyes must have looked wild with just the mention of the stranger, my mother bolted upright in bed.
“Who is it? What’s wrong?” She grabbed my arms and pulled me in close to her.
“A woman, she says she’s your mother,” I told her. She released me, her face paled and she dropped her blue eyes to the floor.
“Oh my God,” my mother said, not to me but perhaps to herself. She swung her legs around the side of the bed and fiddled with the loose strands of light brown hair poking out of her bun. Her hands trembled as she grabbed the light yellow dress hanging on the rocking chair and pulled it over her head, buttoned the front and smoothed out the collar. She sucked in air at her cheeks, and bit down on the sides of her mouth in a nervous gesture I recognized.
“Would you mind staying with Sarah, dear, until she wakes up?” her voice resembled my mother’s, but the tone had evolved to something higher-pitched and the rapid pace reminded me of a young girl. I nodded yes. She scurried out of the room and the stairs groaned as she made her way to the bottom. A familiar creak floated my way as the screen door opened and slammed shut. The old woman’s voice, loud and rasping, punched the air but I couldn’t make out the words she spoke.
I looked into the bassinet to Sarah, clad only in her diaper, and I traced my finger along her soft, clammy skin. Her breath fell gentle and quiet. I settled down in my parent’s bed. I opened and closed my arms and legs like I was doing snow angels in the sheets. The cotton smelled of violets and the brambly light scent of my mother.
Could this old woman really be my mother’s mother? Why did everyone tell me she was dead?
I strained to hear the words of the women downstairs, but all I could hear were the sound of voices rising and falling. In the distance the familiar horn of the train rang out, though muted through the cover of summer foliage. Still, I could hear the rumbling of the locomotive growing closer, thundering down the tracks. Soon, the sound changed and the train wasn’t coming anymore, it was moving away. I listened to the rolling whisper grow faint and before I knew what had happened, I had fallen into a hot, fitful sleep.