The Homecoming

Lisa pulled the stack of mail out of the mailbox and was flipping through one final bill after another. As she walked back down the driveway, the hand-written return address stopped her dead in her tracks. Belfast, Maine isn’t a place where more than a few thousand people reside and, if memory served her right, the only person she knew who lived there in what seemed like another lifetime, had moved to Wyoming at least twenty-five years ago.  But the hand-writing belonged to no other – it was as familiar to her as her own, no matter how many years had come and gone.

Lisa’s fingers were shaking; her heart pounding as she opened the envelope and took out his letter. Without seeing what he’d written, she began to be filled with his presence. His scent enveloped her and his voice spoke to her as she started to read what he wrote. He began by telling her how sorry he was to have heard about the death of her father. He said he knew, probably better than anyone, the paradox of feelings she’d had for the man, and just how devastated she was at losing him. He also apologized for not being able to come and pay his respects when it happened, but explained that losses in his own life had prevented him from being able to do so. He went on to tell her how, after twenty years of marriage, he and his former wife decided to go their separate ways. His way, he said, brought him back to his roots because he’d never once – not one day in all twenty-five years he’d been gone – stopped missing his mountain. He’d only just returned about three months earlier and already, in that short span of time, felt like he’d never left. There’s still, to his knowledge, no other place where he can be so humbled, awed and inspired by the forces of nature – in all her beauty and in all her harshness.  Yet, as natural as it’s been for him to return to his mountain, an awareness that something is out of kilter just won’t be denied. This awareness, he explained, is something he’s been pretty good at suppressing up until now; given the demands of the life he’d chosen when he’d moved west. But now that he’s attuned to the natural rhythm of each day again, and the distractions that kept his awareness at bay have disappeared, he knows there’s one last wrong he needs to right.

Lisa put the letter down on the hood of the car and realized she’d been holding her breath. She leaned back against the driver’s-side door, relaxed her shoulders and forced herself to start taking slow, deliberate breaths, exhaling evenly through her mouth. Her hands weren’t shaking anymore, but the pounding she’d first felt in her heart had turned into flutters deep within her belly because she could actually hear his voice in her heart as she read his words. She’d forgotten about the effect his voice always had on her. In all the years that separated them, she’d never known another person whose voice she’d actually felt, rather than heard. After she spent a few minutes getting her emotions under better control, she leaned over and picked the letter up off the hood of the car, and walked towards the front steps so that she could sit down to finish reading it. She thought about how ironic it was to have received his letter today, of all days. If he’d waited just one more day to mail it, she would never have even known he’d written it. The house was empty, all of her material possessions either sold or in storage, the car packed with everything she was going to need for tomorrow’s journey. The last twenty-five years hadn’t been kind to Lisa, although she was at peace with everything she’d attempted to do. Her ex-husband had finally begun to have a relationship with another woman, so his quest to try to make her life a living hell appeared to be over.

Lisa lowered herself onto the top step, and began reading where she left off. The wrong he needs to right, he says, is all about the words he’s left unspoken for what seems like a hundred years. He tells her he loves her – he’s known from the first moment he laid eyes on her, all those years ago, that she completed him. As she reads what he’s written, she doesn’t even realize that the tears are pouring down her face, until she can’t see the words on the page any more. Grabbing the hem of her shirt, she wipes her face and remembers that last night they were together…

They’d never been more than just very good friends to each other, although she always felt electric whenever she was around him. Lisa was only fifteen when she met Craig. He was nineteen. Something about him brought her out of herself, so that she was always more, whenever he was around; more confident, more assertive; more creative; more definitive; more animated. She always thought her feelings were one-sided; since he’d never once given her any indication that he was romantically attracted to her, until the night he told her he was moving – the last night they were together. They’d gone to a party at a friend’s house. As the night wound down, Craig told her he’d decided the time was right for him to take off for Wyoming – something he’d always dreamed about doing – and would be leaving the following morning. The news hit her hard and she had all she could do to maintain her composure long enough to tell him she had to go. Craig usually insisted on driving her home but, on this particular night, Lisa refused. She said she needed to walk. As she got within about 50 yards of her driveway, he pulled up beside her, parked his truck and got out. Without a word, Craig put his arms on her shoulders, turned her around, and brought her to him. He held her there like that, with the palm of his hand caressing the back of her head as she silently sobbed into his chest, neither of them speaking. After Lisa finished sobbing, Craig brought his hand up under her chin and tilted her head back to look into her eyes. No words were necessary – she could see directly into his soul. He put his hands on each side of her face, softly kissed her forehead and said goodbye. She turned and walked the 50 yards to her house, never once looking back, and never once uttering the words she so desperately wanted to say to him…

As her tears dried and her thoughts turned back to the present, Lisa realized that everything in her life prepared her for this exact moment. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, preventing her from beginning her journey right now, rather than waiting for the morning. She got up off the step and went inside to grab her keys.  Lisa took one final look around at the empty rooms and walked out the door.

Four hours later, as her car maneuvers its way up the gravel driveway, Lisa begins to feel the electricity, and knows Craig is close by. She crests the top of the hill and brings her car to a stop, completely awed by the landscape before her – the mountains, the valley, the ponds and trees, glimpses of the ocean – though none of it’s changed in all this time. She shuts the car off and gets out; there’s a chill in the air. Smoke is coming out of the chimney and she can hear country music coming from the stereo speakers inside, which explains why he didn’t hear the car door slam. She walks up to the door and turns the knob; it opens and she enters. A fire’s burning in the woodstove, beef stew’s simmering in a pot on top of it, and he’s upstairs softly singing along to the music. She silently climbs the stairs and approaches the open doorway of his bedroom. He’s standing with his back to her, wrapped in a towel fresh from the shower, looking through the sliding glass doors at the beauty surrounding him. As she walks over the threshold towards the foot of the bed, a floor board creeks. Craig turns towards her. She stops her approach and waits for his reaction. It’s as if he’d known she would come. He walks over to her, puts his arms on her shoulders and draws her to him. She begins to silently sob into his chest as he caresses the back of her head with the palm of his hand. Once her sobbing subsides, Craig puts his hand under her chin and tilts her head up. He brings his mouth down onto hers with a hunger so fierce, it’s as if he needs to consume her. Her knees buckle and he holds onto her, gently lowering her onto the bed. As their need for each other builds, she removes his towel and he removes every single stitch of clothing she’s got on, until there’s nothing left to act as a barrier between them, anymore. He takes both of her arms and brings them up above her head, resting his arms on hers, palm on palm. With his right knee, he parts her legs only wide enough so that, when he lays his body on top of hers, his thighs and his hips are aligned with hers, and his heart beats directly above her own. Craig looks directly into her soul as he enters her. Lisa whispers softly “Welcome home”.

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