“Finding Home” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Shruthika Padhy, Rosa International Middle School, USA.
It’s been a couple of months since we’ve moved in with Aunt Marie. School’s started, too. San Diego’s different from all the other places Cookie and I lived in. Mama always preferred the calm, serene places to the big, bustling ones.
Aunt Marie’s house is great. Cookie and I each get our own rooms. Mine’s huge: it’s nearly as big as most houses we lived in with Mama. Aunt Marie’s kitchen is big, too. She’s a fantastic cook. It’s probably why both of us have put on a couple pounds since moving in.
There’s even a massive field out back. Now that I think about, everything about our house is big. The field’s where I practice for football. I’m thinking about inviting a couple of the guys here to practice.
Speaking of football, tryouts are coming up. Saint Thomas has a great football team, so it’ll be tough. I’ve faced plenty of challenges in my life, though. When we lived with Mama, I never bothered to tryout. We’d always move out anyway.
Well, they’ve published the roster for football today. I didn’t make it.
There’s not much to do here. Somedays, I feel like San Diego just isn’t for me. Some days, I just wanna go home…..wherever that is. Mama moved us around so much that I never knew what it meant. Did it mean that motel in Kansas? Or that condo in Chicago? Or what about the trailer in Indiana? I thought I’d found an answer when Cookie and I moved in with Aunt Marie.
Cookie’s real mad at Mama. Me, I’m not so sure. I think I’d like to go back. San Diego’s great and all, but I miss Mama and Victor. Cookie and I left a couple months back, and we haven’t talked to either of them since. I’ve got to talk to Cookie. I need to move back.
The next day started off just like any other. In the middle of Geometry, though, Mrs. Halling called me over to her desk. “Principal Cohen wants to see you.” she said simply. I picked up my books and walked out. On the way down, I wondered why Principal Cohen wanted to talk to me. Surely it couldn’t be about my grades? I had all A’s, except for a single B in chemistry. Could it be about Mama? Victor?
Cookie was there, sitting on one of the plush chairs in front of the principal’s office. “You have any idea what this is about?” I asked her. She shook her head. Just then, Principal Cohen walked out. “Come on in,”, he said.
Palms sweating, I stepped into the room, Cookie trailing behind. We took a seat, anxiously waiting for whatever Principal Cohen was going to say.
“Your Aunt’s fallen sick,” he started. “She has a serious condition and well-“, Here he paused. “Isn’t in any condition to take care of you two right now.” My mind went into a blur.
“Where do we go now?” Cookie asked shakily. Before he could answer, I cut in. “Could you excuse us for a moment?”
“Of course,”, he replied. As soon as he left, I said “Look, Cookie…. I’ve been thinking and I think it’s time we move in with Mama.”
“I don’t know. Aunt Marie’s awfully nice. Couldn’t we find someone to stay with for a couple weeks?”, she suggested, hesitating. “And, I don’t want to keep moving around. We’ve been moving our whole lives, for Pete’s sake!”, she added.
I shrugged, and shook my head. Cookie’s always been stubborn. I gave it my last shot: “Look, maybe I can give her a call. Maybe if we explain…. Mama’ll stop the moving.” I knew this was pretty far-fetched. Knowing Mama, she probably didn’t even live in George anymore. But still, I had to try.
I stood near the telephone, fidgeting. I could only hope Mama would understand. I know I would still move back even if she kept on moving, but Cookie? The only thing that would seal the deal for her was never, ever moving again. And if Cookie didn’t want to move, would I have the guts to do it without her? We’d always done everything together, right from the start.
I took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and dialed in the number. Mama gave me it right before we left. “Just in case.”, she’d said.
Mama picked up of the first ring. “Hi, Mama.”, I said. And then the words came pouring out, like never before. I told her about football, San Diego, Cookie, and finally, Aunt Marie. And then I told her we wanted to move back. “Guess we weren’t ready to fly away after all.” I said with a smile.
We never explained to her why we left. So now I explained. We didn’t like moving, I told her. We could never make friends, and we were always the “new kids”. When I finally finished, Mama let out a big sigh. “I’m sorry…. I never knew. I guess I was always so caught up in my own dreams, that I stopped you from chasing yours.” She sighed again. By now, Cookie was in the room too, listening in.
Then she said she, along with Victor would move to San Diego. That way, she could help Aunt Marie get better and be close to us. She explained that they’d never had the kind of relationship sisters should have. Instead, they were always fighting, mostly because of Mama. “We haven’t talked in 20 years,” she continued.
Aunt Marie’s recovered now. She’s even started working. Mama seems happy, Victor too. But I know Mama still wants to fly away, out into the clouds, unbridled and free. So that’s why I’ve been saving up my paychecks. When I gave Mama the ticket, she lit up. I’d never seen anyone so happy.