The first Writing Prompt Wednesday of the summer is here! For some reason, it is set in the fall, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.
A cold autumn breeze scattered leaves across the path behind me as I climbed up the porch steps and stopped in front of the door. I squared my shoulders, took a deep breath, and pressed the doorbell. Footsteps shuffled inside and the door creaked open. I swallowed hard. “Hello, Mom. I’m back.”
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2 thoughts on “Writing Prompt Wednesday: I’m Back”
She grinned at me as she swung open the screen door. “Already? What happened?”
I kicked my shoes off and followed her into the kitchen, spinning my basketball on the tip of my finger. “The courts were closed. Some school group was there playing games.”
She tsked as she opened the oven. “Too bad.”
I eyed the steaming hot pizza. “I don’t think I mind anymore. I’m hungry!”
Her icy gray eyes stared into mine for a brief second before she turned away and shuffled back down the hall, leaving the door standing open.
“You may as well come in.”
It wasn’t much, but was still a warmer response than I’d expected. I picked up my rucksack and flung it over my shoulder, then staggered through the doorway to set it down. Even now, 9 months out, I was still embarrassingly weak. Dusting off my shaking hands on my uniform trousers, I followed my mother down the familiar hallway. Sepia-toned photographs of dour-looking relatives still hung in their usual spots, and the threadbare rug that lined the stairs to the second floor was the same one I’d tripped over as a child. The only addition was a red and white banner that now adorned the door to the kitchen, a gold star embroidered in the center. I swallowed hard, wishing I were anywhere else.
Pushing past the swinging door, I entered the kitchen with its familiar odors of soap powder and fresh bread. Mother was standing at the sink, staring out unseeingly at the snow-dusted yard. I could remember seeing her standing that way before, years back, as she watched my little brother Charlie playing outside. A lump grew in my throat. I didn’t want to remember.
“When did you get back?”
Her question startled me out of my reverie.
“Last week. We docked in New York on Saturday.”
“And are you well?”
“Well enough.” It was a lie, and I had a feeling we both knew it.
Mother twisted her hands in her apron in a familiar gesture, then turned away from the window. She crossed the room and poured out two cups of coffee, indicating for me to join her at the table. I sat down gingerly, dragging my right foot into place with my hand, but not in time to keep my mother from noticing the movement. Her eyes narrowed and she looked at me quizzically. In response, I raised my pant leg a few inches to let her see the wooden prosthetic that had replaced my right foot and a good portion of the leg. Her face darkened and she turned away, opening the Bible that lay in its usual spot at the head of the table. She lifted out a folded paper and reached into her apron pocket for her spectacles. My heart thudded in my chest as I recognized Charlie’s sprawling handwriting.
“Please don’t.” My voice was thick.
“I’d have thought you’d want to know the last words your brother sent home.” Mother’s coldness suddenly melted into the seething rage she’d been holding back for the past two years. “After all, it was you who encouraged him to go. You who helped him lie to the sergeant about his age. You who told me not to worry when I discovered they were sending my baby over to…” She caught her breath with a sob. “It’s your fault he’s dead, lying in some unmarked grave in heathen lands. None but yours.”
I felt instinctively for my pocket and pulled out my pack of Lucky Strikes, tapping one out onto the table. But before I could light it, Mother snatched it from my hand.
“You can take your filthy cigarettes and leave this house. I don’t want to look at you.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but no words came out. Mother pushed back her chair with a scrape and got to her feet, pointedly opening the door back into the hallway. My vision blurred, I slowly gathered my feet beneath me and stood. I’d made it halfway across the room when my prosthetic leg caught against the coal scuttle and I crashed to the floor. Agonized and weak, I looked up at Mother where she stood like an avenging angel against the weak winter sunshine. Suddenly her face crumpled and she threw herself down beside me. Charlie’s letter fluttered to the floor as she pulled my head into her lap and sobbed.
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