It’s time for another photo flash fic.
I don’t know why I thought going home wouldn’t affect me. I guess, when it comes right down to it, it was pride. I suppose I hadn’t considered what it would be like to view the place through someone else’s eyes.
I watched Eric take it in. From the wood-sided dilapidated farm house that was now more dry rot than paint to the oxidized tin roof, to the old, orange Allis Chalmers tractor, to the corrugated metal shed that doubled as a chicken coop…until the foxes had figured figured out the chickens were there.
He took a step forward then stopped at the sound of a crunch beneath his expensively-clad foot. I knew what he’d see before he picked up his foot. “Is that a…”
“An old chicken bone. Yeah.”
He swallowed thickly then gestured toward the house. “Did you want to…”
Eric was normally decisive, commanding. I couldn’t ever remember seeing him this unsure. It made the blur of the last few days seem that much more dreamlike–unreal in a way that I felt that if I avoided going inside, I could pretend that none of it was actually happening. The house would still smell like stale cigarette smoke and Canadian Mist, and a ballgame would be playing through the tinny-sounding speakers of an old radio that barely picked up a signal this far from town. And the Tigers would be about to throw away the lead with the bases loaded.
I shook my head. “Not right now.”
Kicking off my stupid heels, I walked toward the overgrown field that lay beyond the gravel driveway, the sharp stones cutting into my perfectly pedicured feet. Once upon a time, I’d been able to run across the stones with bare feet and barely feel anything. The skin on my feet had been far thicker than that on my heart. Now, it was the other way around.
“Ashley,” Eric called. But I didn’t answer.
The field was a bit of a relief for my tender feet, but the dried blades of long grass scratched at my bare calves and snagged at the delicate fabric of my skirt. This field should have been hayed weeks ago. I’d need to mention that to– I’d need to mention that to someone. I wasn’t sure who, but I’d figure it out.
As I got closer to the treeline, my steps slowed. Something about the delineation between earth and sky just looked…wrong. Panic bloomed in my chest like flowers with petals sharp enough to draw blood. But I couldn’t quiet the building anxiety any more than I could slow my gait. Finally, I stumbled to a stop as my brain began to make sense of what I was seeing.
The old oak–the one I’d climbed constantly as a kid, the one with the thick armed branch that had held the swing my dad made me, and later, the treehouse we’d built together–had been completely uprooted. Probably with the last bout of straight line winds that had torn up the area. I needed to let my dad know. Maybe if we got the tractor running we could wrap a chain around the trunk and get it upright. Try to rebury the roots. We’d have to borrow a field irrigator from a neighbor to get enough moisture into the to the ground and the root system, but maybe the oak could be saved.
I took a breath and turned to holler for my dad. I saw Eric, carefully picking his way toward me in his somber charcoal suit, and everything came rushing back. The phonecalls. The police. The funeral home. Buying my dad the only suit he’d ever had, other than the one he’d worn when my parents had married. The service.
I looked back to the tree and dropped to my knees, heedless of the field stones I’d hit on the way down. I stared at the dirt clumped roots as my throat thickened and my eyes burned. The tears I hadn’t been able to cry streamed down my face, and I realized that no amount of chains or tractors or moisture would change anything. The tree and my dad were both gone.
Okay…so this uplifting bit of fluff is all I’ve got going on today. Um…let’s go see if Deelylah’s is more cheerful.