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Where is Home?
My fingers ran nervously over my dress smoothing out non-existent creases. I was nervous, but who wouldn’t be? I was walking into a whole new world and I wished for my parents to be here with me. They were not here now and they would never be. There death date, last week, May 14 1893.
I was heading to a new home. Closest relative they told me. He is my cousins. Well, not really. He is a 4th cousin of mine or something, but that hardly matters. I have never met him to my knowledge and I am fairly certain he knows as much about me as I know of him. That would be close to nothing.
I have been told that he is much older than me. He is widowed, but he does have children. His name is Henry. He has a son who is about my age, whose name is William, and a daughter, who is six named Susan. I have never had to live with other children before. This will be another first for me.
The carriage pulled to a stop and I looked up. Stepping out of the carriage I began to walk towards the door of the house. My brown hair whipped around in the breeze. Apparently my cousin was way better off than my parents ever were. His house was far bigger than I had ever seen in the city. It towered above me as I stepped up to the door. The only thing breaking the tension and my nervousness was the twittering of the birds. They swooped around me. It was spring and there where many birds about. One took off over the lake that the house over-saw and disappeared into the horizon.
‘To have wings…’
I knocked and waited, trying to act patient. When the door swung open I tried to smile at the face I saw looking at me. I’m almost sure it came out as a grimace.
“Hello Isabella,” The man greeted me warmly. To my ears it sounded forced. “My name is Henry.” he told me as I stepped inside. Two children stood in the foyer. I looked at them, they were skinny, but not gaunt. The Children’s hair was a white kind of blond that told me they spent many hours outside. Henry, however, looked as if he had not left the house in quiet sometime. His skin looked pasty and his hair was untamed.
They looked nothing like me. They probably wouldn’t be considered family by most. Susan stepped forward and although her feet were tiny they made a loud noise that echoed off the walls and filled the silence of the room.
“Come on, I’m to show you to your room.” Her hand grabbed mine as if she had seen me every day of her life and she started to tell me about how much time she spent cleaning up the place for my visit. It seemed as if Susan didn’t see new people often. Maybe that was because she lived out in the country.
The door that she opened and led me through led to a thoroughly plain room. I wanted to burst out in tears. This was not home. I wanted my mother, my father, and my room. This room was cold where my room was warm. Silence fell as the little girl realized that I was not listening to her anecdote.
“You look lost,” she told me. My gaze didn’t even flicker back to her.
“I think I am.” I whispered. The room got colder. Susan pulled her hand from mine looking sad.
“Do you want to see my room? It’s painted really pretty.” Susan offered obviously trying to get me to cheer up.
“No thanks,” I said as I sat down on the bed, my bed apparently. It didn’t feel quite right.
When dinner came the only sounds in the dining room were the sounds of forks stabbing at food. William tried to make conversation with me.
“So you’re fourteen?” He asked.
“Yes,” I answered distractedly. I was not in the mood for conversation.
“I am too,” William said to me.
“mhmm,” I answer nodding as I took a small bite of my dinner. Silence fell again and almost winced. I wished someone would talk. Not to me of course, I didn’t want to talk to them. I wanted to talk to my own parents.
Dinner ended abruptly and I returned to my room. God, I hate the sound of that. My real room is many miles away. Home is where my parents are not in a house of strangers. The bed was uncomfortably, comfortable. It felt like it had been slept in before many times, but still lacked an owner. I decided that this room had been a guest room. The walls closed in on me and the sun disappeared from the horizon. The walls themselves looked horrible in their cream colored paint. They lacked identity and purpose.
Just like me, they stuck out and had no place to go. I had never been one to cry before my parents died. I guess death changes people in many ways. I cried harder than I ever had that night.
The next day Susan decided to play out in the yard. I went out to watch her. William accompanied us. Susan was a curious child. She walked around in the garden and caught some bugs asking us what they were called. As we were walking back to the house she sang a tune that could have only come from a child’s head while she skipped next to us.
I supposed that she wasn’t so bad. She was certainly entertaining. Upon voicing this opinion to William he disagreed with me.
“She’s a head ache, that’s what she is.” Was all he said. Henry over heard this conversation and laughed agreeing with both of us.
After awhile in the house I had to agree with William. Susan seemed to never run out of things to say to us. Taking her outside to burn off some energy seemed to be the only way to quiet her.
“It’s perfect out today.” William commented on one of the occasions that we brought her outside.
“Yeah it is. It will be summer soon.” I answered with a small smile.
“You really should smile more often. It suits you.” He told me and I’m sure I must have blush.
“I don’t have much to smile for.” I said quietly.
“I can name a few things. The day is nice, that’s one. You have a nice place to stay. You aren’t starving. You have a bed to sleep in.” William listed. I rolled my eyes.
“I can name twice as many things for me not to smile about.”
“Depends on how you look at it I guess. I don’t think your life is that bad. I mean I lost my mom a few years and I don’t mope around all the time. Maybe it’s different because both your parents died.” He shrugged and looked back out at the yard. Something did seem out of place now that our conversation had stilled. The yard was quiet.
“Where is Susan?” William asked and I wasn’t sure how to answer. “SUSAN!” He called. No response came from the empty yard. We took off running. Getting closer to the lake I saw something that caught my eye and apparently William’s too. Susan was in the water thrashing around. Her dress was billowing around her at the moment but I could see the ends starting to sink in the water.
William, unlike me, knew how to swim and quickly jumped into the lake. I was left on the shore worrying as Susan began to be pulled down by the weight of her dress. Too many had died, to lose her too would surely sentence me to a life of grief. William reached the area where she had disappeared seconds earlier.
He dove down and disappeared too for a few moments before returning to the surface with Susan. She looked limp. He pulled her onto the ground next to me. I cried in relief as she took a breath as if awakening from a deep sleep. She was not the only one reborn. She was not the only one saved.
“What do you think you’re doing Susan?” William asked her angrily as she opened her eyes.
“I was teaching myself to swim, Will.” Susan rasped out with a small smile. Neither of us returned it.
For days afterward Susan was not out of our sight for more than a moment. Henry had been concerned when we had told him what happened, but upon seeing that Susan was fine he laughed good naturedly about Susan’s response. I started to realize that maybe this was not such a bad place after all.
Susan was back up and running her mouth after a few days and she was thoroughly annoyed at our constant presence. She was always rolling her eyes at us and trying to escape William and my surveillance. She had become a little sister to me so I supposed that I could become an annoying older sister to her.
Susan’s near death experience helped me realize that I cared for her and William and Henry. They were not my parents and this house will never be the home I once had, but I’m beginning to think that home is where you make it.
“We should paint your room.” Henry said to me one morning and I couldn’t help but grin.
“Yeah we should,” I agreed and later that very week we picked out some paint and started in on the cream walls together, yellow, the color of happiness.