Sitting on the lake shore the wind blew threw my hair. I breathed in the salty air of Lake Martin. I pulled my knees to my chest and looked out onto the water. This was great, complete silence.
“Eloise,” Mama said, startling me as she touched my shoulder.
“Mama,” I said turning around.
“It’s time for dinner, darling.”
I turned away. “I’m not hungry,” I muttered angrily.
She slowly sat down next to me and looked out onto the lake. “It’s hard for me too, you know.”
I stood up and walked away from her, off to the old tree house. I ran my hand along the the dusty wood ladder, not touched for years. I climbed and then sat on the old platform. The wind rustled through the old oak’s leaves. Shh, it calmed. Then Charlie came climbing up the ladder. Just another person interrupting my peace.
“Eloise,” Charlie said as he sat down next to me. “Why are you so angry? This was gonna happen no matter what you did or said. I thought you would have suspected this. I always thought you were the smart one.”
“But why? Why do we have to go? Why can’t we just stay here forever?” I asked turning to my older, wiser brother.
“We ran out of money, we can’t pay the mortgage without Dad.”
I sighed. “Why, did he have to go?” I asked.
“I don’t know, no one knows,” he replied.
“But, I don’t want to leave,” I protested.
“No one does, Eloise. We love this place, this house, this yard, this lake, but that’s just how things work.”
I slowly stood up and climbed down the ladder. “Well, Aunt Marion's place better be good.”
“Don’t get your hopes up,” Charlie laughed as he followed behind.
I climbed in the car and took one last look at the beautiful house that held all of my amazing memories. Right in this moment I felt like crying. I could remember Dad picking me up and throwing me in the lake every summer. It was our tradition on the first day of summer break. Charlie patted my back. “It’s okay sis,” he comforted.
“Say goodbye,” Mama bellowed and we drove off. We were half way down the road when I heard her whimper and let out a small sob. “You know the one thing I won’t miss about that house is how you guys tracked in mud in the summer,” she half laughed, half cried as she tried to lighten the mood.
“That’s the thing I’ll miss most,” I heard Charlie muttered.
The rest of the drive it was dead silent until the radio accidentally started blaring If you like pina coladas, and gettin’ caught in the rain, if you don’t like yoga, and you have half a brain… it sang. We laughed hysterically, but soon the song was over and the mood returned. A few minutes later our car pulled into the driveway of an old, scary looking house. Moss and ivy grew up it’s sides. Out of the old front door walked a woman with a tight gray bun and a short yellow sundress. Mama opened the car door.
“Amy!” the woman yelled stretching out her arms and running towards Mama.
Mama got out the car and gave Aunt Marion a big hug. “Thank you so much, Marion!”
“Anything for my niece!” she exclaimed. “Now, don’t let those kiddos stay in the car, I want some sugar!”
Mama pulled us out of the car and into Aunt Marion's arms. Aunt Marion pulled us away and I stared at Charlie, he was wearing the same confused expression as me. “You are both so big!” she smiled. “Oh, Charlie! You’re practically a man! Now, your mother told me you were a senior, now is that right?”
“Oh! I would never forget my Eloise! What a pretty name! Now let me guess, you’re head of the class, now aren’t you? You always were a smart cookie!”
I looked away and didn’t answer. I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to be home, with Dad.
“Well, that’s okay then. Why don’t you come in for some milk and cookies?”
“Yes, of course. How could anyone turn that down?” Mama replied as she followed Aunt Marion inside. She turned and looked at me with a sad expression but I could hardly tell because I was looking at my shoes.
We followed her inside and into the kitchen. It was much nicer and cheerful on the inside than it was on the outside. The kitchen was a bright yellow with pictures of fruits hanging on the walls. I hardly ate any cookies, I just wasn’t hungry with all of this on my mind, on my heart. After a little while I went up to what was now my new room. It was beautiful but I couldn’t be happy here. I sat down at the bay window and looked out into what was my new yard. I heard someone come into the room. Standing in the threshold of the door was Charlie.
“You need to be nicer to our hostess,” he said leaning on the door frame.
“I don’t like it here. I wanna go home,” I said looking back through the window.
He came over to me and sat down. “I know you don’t like it now, but I promise that you’ll get used to it.”
“I never got used to Dad being gone.”
“I don’t think we ever will,” he said.
My dad had died in a car accident the year before and nothing was the same without him. Mama tried to make due but it just wasn’t the same. We could hardly make enough money and we tried very hard to keep the house but we all knew we would have to give it up.
“Well I have to go check out my room,” he said as he stood up.
“What am I gonna do when you graduate?” I asked.
“You’ll do what you’ve always done and push your way through.”
I stared out the window until it was dark, I even skipped dinner, but I just wasn’t hungry.
Aunt Marion walked into my room a few minutes past dark. She knocked on the door but didn’t even wait for a reply before coming in and sitting next to me. I pulled my knees to my chest and turned to her. “Yes,” I said sassaly.
“I know it’s hard.”
“Do you really?” I scowled.
“Yes. My mother died when I was six. I had to live my whole life without her.”
I untightened my face.
“It’s hard to go through your life without a mother, especially when you’re a young woman yourself. She never got to see me graduate, or get married, or have children of my own.” She stopped and looked out the window. “She never got to help me through my problems growing up.” She looked as if she was about to cry.
“I’m so sorry,” I said letting my legs down. “Do you mind me asking how she died?”
“She died giving birth to my little sister. My father was never the same after she died, just as your mother isn’t the same as she used to be. I’m afraid however that he turned very mean after her death. He didn’t talk to us, I felt like he didn’t even like me. All he did was sleep all day and drink all night.” She sighed and turned towards me. “So, yes, I know how hard it is, but without my mother you wouldn’t have your grandmother, and you wouldn’t have your mother, and you wouldn’t even be here.”
“Grandma was that little sister?” I asked. She had never been able to tell me these things since she had died when I was only two.
Aunt Marion nodded. She held out her clamped hands to me and slowly opened them. My mother gave this to me, and now it’s yours. To let you know that it will be better even if that hole in your heart is never filled.” In her hands was a locket. She clipped it around my neck and I slowly opened it to see a picture of Aunt Marion’s whole family. On the other side there was a picture of a little girl that looked a lot like Aunt Marion. I smiled.
“Thank you.” I said.
She smiled back and walked to the doorway and the turned around. “Oh, and next time please eat your food, your mother is very worried about you,” she laughed.