By Samantha Lopes
I pushed my right blinker down and the clicking of the blinking arrow echoed around my car. I cut the wheel and turned onto the street as the familiar weeping white birch came into view. I pulled into the slanted driveway, cut the engine, and unclipped my seatbelt. The yard was flooded with green-yellow leaves mixed with bright oranges and reds. The wind gently lifted a few of them into the air and onto the front steps.
I glanced in the rearview mirror as a saw a small, hunched figure across the way pulling weeds out of the ground. Her orange-yellow, frizzy blonde hair poked out from the ground. I stepped out of the car, popped the trunk, and grabbed my tattered green laundry bag. I averted my eyes and tucked a dark lock of hair behind my ear as I tried to balance all of my bags in one trip. I teetered into the garage, walked up the narrow wooden steps, and walked into the laundry room. As I caught view of my mom, she was rushing around the kitchen, her wild brown curls bouncing behind her as she opened up one side of the stainless steel refrigerator door, grabbed her wine jug, and filled up her glass. I opened up the wide wooden door. The smell of crispy breaded chicken and warm fresh bread wafted through the air. She turned and rushed over to me in her fizzy cheetah print slippers, scraping the floor as she went.
“Hi sweetie pie, missed you,” she crooned, wrapping her petite freckled arms around me like she hadn’t seen me in years.
“Carol, it’s only been two weeks,” I complained, as I spotted my brother, Dan, poking his head up from behind the living room wall.
Surprisingly, he put his video game on pause, and got up and said, “Sammie’s home,” grinning wildly. My mom eyed my laundry bag suspiciously, always secretly annoyed that I let myself get behind on laundry again. I surreptitiously smiled because what she didn’t know was that I always purposely saved my laundry specifically for when I knew I would be coming home for the weekend.
Two tiny heads popped up in the back window. I smiled and my mom opened up the screen door and my two little boxer puppies, Bear and Bella, came running in. I stroked the top of their heads as their little tails shook back and forth uncontrollably.
We heard a large truck pull up out front. The puppies stampeded over to the large tan leather chair facing the window and poked their noses out, and the three of us followed behind them. We peeked out the big bay window and saw three men get out of the truck. One man walked up the driveway across the street, and the other two prepared to start cutting down the large spruce tree in the center of the neighbor’s yard.
“What’s that little witch doing over there now,” my mom said, scrunching up her face. Dan and I exchanged a glance, and quietly crept over to the couches and sat down. My mom continued to stare out the window. “Is she freaking serious? I mean really,” she said blowing out a breath in frustration. Constant renovations across the street had become commonplace in the last few years, but each one still managed to set my mom off.
We heard the big wooden door open again, and my dad strolled into the kitchen, all dressed up in his tan khakis and shirt and tie.
“Oh look who it is,” he said with a smile and walked over to me and held out his arms inviting me into a giant hug. The dogs ran over to him, and he kissed them both on the mouth. Dan’s crinkled his nose in disgust, and we both laughed when Bear jumped so high he almost knocked him over. My dad then moved over to the bay window, pulled the string and let the tan shades cover up the wide panels.
“Why don’t we just move already,” my mom complained.
“Okay, enough,” he said with a note of finality in his voice as he wrapped his arms around my mom and pulled her away from the window. Dinner was ready, and we pulled out the old wooden TV trays, and ate. By the time 7 o’ clock rolled around, out of the corner of my eye I saw my dad walk over to wooden cabinet above the stove, and pull out a tiny orange pill bottle.
“With your heart condition, I feel you will you will live a shorter life than her.” My grandmother’s words echoed through my mind as I saw him unscrew the cap, pop two pills in his mouth, and take a swig of water.
My dad’s mother had passed away in the spring of my junior year of high school. I was sixteen when we had found out her cancer had spread. However, the day of her death is never the day I remember when I think of her. The day before she passed is always the day that comes to mind.
I remember sitting in my living room, my blonde hair tied up on top of my head, twisted into some semblance of a bun. My dad had been at my grandmother’s house every day for the past few months, taking shifts with my Aunt Donna, rolling my grandmother back and forth on her back as she could not get out of bed and her condition deteriorated. I poked my head up as I spotted through the bay window my dad walking up the sidewalk. A few seconds later, he opened up the laundry room door leading into the kitchen and anxiously I half stood up.
“How’s grandma?” I asked. He shook his head and looked down at the ground. He walked past me and quietly shut the door to his bedroom. Curious, I listened and craned my head closer to the door trying to hear his conversation with my mom. All I could hear was muffled whispers.
I got my answer to his bizarre reaction a few days later. My normally outspoken father, placidly sat in the rocking chair, his legs crossed, his fingers clasped together in his lap. I could see the veins in my mom’s forehead come out. Her face turned bright red and she screamed and paced back and forth across the kitchen before she finally threw the letter down on to the pine table. It was a letter that had come along with my grandmother’s will.
Silently, I picked it up and began to read. On and on about how much she hated my mother, blaming her for coming in between my grandmother and father’s relationship. My eyes moved slowly over the page, back and forth, re-reading the words over and over. With a sharp intake of breath, I turned the page. “Although Samantha is my granddaughter I can’t give her any more than I have,” was written in swirly script. She continued on, “I have favored Danny over Sam because I feel the deep love for me when he hugs me.” My eyes began to water. The last sentence read, “Love you always and watching down on you and my four grandchildren.” I huffed at that. Yeah right, I thought. At the bottom of the page, written in parentheses, was a little side note signed and dated by my Aunt Donna, saying she had scribed the letter for my grandmother, who was too sick to write it for herself.
I placed the letter back down on the kitchen table, speechless. The first feeling I could register was betrayal. Then the anger came flooding in.
“How could she do this?” I yelled, stomping out into the living room. My brother picked up the letter and silently began to read. I looked in my dad’s eyes desperately searching for an answer, and he just shook his head.
“That bitch,” my mom screamed. “Scott, you wanna leave? Then, leave. It’s apparently all my fault. I’m gonna get blamed for it the rest of my life,” she cried.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” my dad said finally speaking up.
I stomped halfway up the stairs and shouted, “I wish Grandma would come back so I could tell her how much of a coward she is to her face.” I held the tears back. Any remnant feeling of sadness I had was shattered when I read her words innocently penned across the cheap notebook paper.
Four years have gone by and that day still echoes in my mind. The aftershocks of my grandmother and aunt’s deception still come in waves with each glance across the street. My brother and I had spent our childhood playing in my grandmother’s driveway day after day, her in her oversized floral sundress sitting nearby under the carport in her plastic chair. But now the sight of my grandmother’s tiny ranch styled house only brought back her vicious words written in her letter.
Sunday night crept up on me like Sundays always seem to. I sat in the living room with my mom while she soaked her feet in her small blue basin of water and exfoliating salts. She squealed when the dogs tried to slurp up the water while she tried to balance her bag of microwave popcorn and wine glass. I laughed at her as I put my shoes on, and packed up my book bag. My dad sat out in the kitchen with his tiny reading glasses tipped down on his nose. I put on my jacket, hugged my parents goodbye, and loaded my bags into the trunk of my car.
I hopped in the driver’s seat, and put my seatbelt on. There was my Aunt Donna, watering her flowers in her front yard. We made eye contact. I rolled my eyes and made a point to adjust my rearview mirror to clear her from my view. I reversed out of my driveway, wrestled the old stick shift into drive, and pulled away. My blue eyes darted around the rearview mirror as I took a quick glance back at my Aunt’s disappearing presence. Relief flooded through me as I saw her figure fading further and further into the distance.