With one last hug, Delila tossed her heavy bag over her shoulder and rushed to board the street car. Soon, she’d be on the train, back on the way the cool, quiet cabin in the Appalachian valley of her home.
Her heart was pounding, as she slung the travel bag down on the floor and slid down into the worn seat, exhausted, yet exhilarated. It had been wonderful to see her brother again. They were adults now, their visits seemed so infrequent, so crowed with activities that there never had been time to just sit and talk, reminisce.
Richard, her older brother had gone off to college in San Francisco, and never returned to the mountains. Delila had always been afraid that would happen. He was a wanderer, never satisfied, always seeking new adventures, places that set his soul on fire with dreams of the future.
She had hoped the big city, rushing streetcars, noisy streets, a tiny apartment, living expenses that were beyond ridiculous would bring him home after a few years working two jobs to pay the bills. As beautiful as the steep, rocky hill and the site of the ocean from craggy cliffs could be, was it really as soothing, as healing as home?
Richard was walking back up the hill to the apartment he shared with a colleague at work, a cat named Shivers and three goldfish. Surprisingly, he was thinking about the things Delia had told him, tears running down her cheeks, as they had sat on the rugged hillside overlooking the bay the previous day.
He opened the window, the breeze fluttering the curtains, and thought of her locks of golden brown hair as she had brushed them from her face, over and over as she told them of Aunt Lou’s last days. Her hair had always been a mess and she wasn’t about to contain it with a chip or clasp-at 11 or 31. It was part of her, as much as her azure blue eyes and long, skinny legs.
“Remember when we were kids and Aunt Lou took us to her “thinking place” up on the mountain?” She had told him as they sat above the rugged cliff, eating pickles and drinking Sprite. He had spread the blanket on a grassy spot and opened the bag lunch they had brought to share on this last day together.filling it with favorites from their childhood. The grasses waving in the swift breeze had brought back memories of the solitude and beauty of Aunt Lou’s hidden refuge. She had always gone there when she was sad, lonely, or perhaps simply needed sometime alone.
Even now, it made Richard smile to think that so many years had gone by before she had even shared this special place with them, her precious niece and nephew, her only living relatives. He reached his doorstep, panting as he climbed to the second floor and looked out the window to see if the street car was still in sight. It wasn’t.
Delila had given it her best shot, she thought as the crowded streets became irrigated farmland. She had reminding Richard of the days the three of them spent in that special place, how Aunt Lou had taught them the name of every flower, tree, mushroom, and insect that she saw as they trudged up that hill, leaves crunching underfoot. They skipped over tiny rivulets making their way down the mountains, laughed when they caught their coats on a briar, or slipped on a muddy creek bank.
“Had it meant anything to him?” she wondered, the trains rhythmic chugging seeming to surround her as the scenery swept by.
She thought of him as teen, rebellious, long hair back loosely with a rubber band, his defined chin, perfect teeth. He would sit on Aunt Lou’s porch in the evening, playing Lynyrd Skynyrd songs on his guitar, singing along quietly, shaking his head in rhythm, as if the songs were coming right from his soul.
“ How could he leave that place, his little sister, Aunt Lou?” she thought as the train began to climb up the Rocky Mountains, so stark and foreboding, not like the gently soothing, lush green valleys that surrounded them at Aunt Lou’s.
“There was a liberal arts college nearby, their town wasn’t so small that there was nothing to do, and it was so beautiful there in the mountains of North Carolina. Even more, it had hurt her that he had stayed there all these years, coming home only for an occasional visits.
She thought of how Aunt Lou, widowed at a young age had taken them in when their parents had died in a plane crash when they were seven and eleven. Her memories of her parents were vague, almost dream-like. His memories seemed to bring him more pain, it was if the thoughts of them had festered inside him as he grew.
Delila had always believed that Richard had held some sort of anger at their parents for wanting to go on that stupid trip anyway. Leaving them there with Aunt Lou to go on a trip to the Grand Canyon. It seemed rather selfish to him- he had finally admitted it yesterday, while they were sitting there by the ocean, the waves pounding against the shore.
It would have meant so much to Aunt Lou, as she had struggled through the cancer, to have had Richard with them. Delila often wondered if she would have re-married, had kids of her own. Had Aunt Lou given up her life for them?
Up in his apartment, Richard stared out the window. “Was it too late to go home?” he thought. Nothing would be the same. Somehow, he knew that he wanted to raise a family there in that valley, for them to spend time with Aunt Delila. The thought had stricken him like a bolt of thunder.
“I can’t run from it forever,” he sighed.. He turned on his computer and began looking at “Accounting Jobs-Walton, North Carolina”. He wondered what Delila would think when he showed up at her door, Shivers in his cage beside him