Allison took a deep breath. There was no mistaking it: she was back on Pine Street, back home, and summer was right around the corner. The green smell of spring was giving way to a sweeter, dryer, straw-like smell that meant warmer days on the horizon.
After spending a month with her parents, Allison did not even mind the wind that whistled past her, threatening to slam her front screen door into her back as she fumbled with her key to her house.
She lugged her suitcase over the threshold, leaving the wooden door open, letting that wind swirl fresh air into the living room, and sat on her old love seat. Neatly piled on the coffee table, the junk mail that had arrived while she was away sat waiting to be recycled. Leo, she smiled, he’s never tidy with anything but he must have made a special effort.
Allison wanted to pop down to see Leo, to thank him for watching the house and taking in the mail, to see Precious and receive some sloppy dog kisses.
But not quite yet.
She had two things to do first. She had to call Kassandra, to let her know she’d arrived back safely, to thank her for the texts, brief conversations, excuses to step out she’d provided over the last few weeks.
Before that, even, Allison knew, she needed to deal with the pent-up emotions that would bubble up and over any second now, now that she was safe.
Allison took another deep breath. She conjured her mother’s face and felt it, weirdly, cover her own. This sensation of taking on her mother’s face had occurred surprisingly often while she’d been caring for her mom. It would be a brief and welcome surprise to catch a glimpse of herself in the mirror, and realize that her own face had not disappeared completely.
“I am not my mother,” Allison whispered. She brought her hands to cover her face, touching the skin that seemed not to belong to her at the moment, and let herself dissolve. She wept for a time; the sky outside, still bright blue when she’d opened her front door, was dusky when she stood and shook the tears away.
Allison washed her face, her very own face again, and scooped the junk mail into the recycling bin without opening a single envelope.