Updated: Nov 1, 2019
Melissa leaned against the rear passenger door as I slammed the trunk shut.
“You're seriously leaving,” she said, crossing her arms.
I sighed. I had tried to explain to my sister why I had to do this, but she couldn't – or wouldn't – understand.
“This isn't like you.” she frowned. I shrugged. That was true. “Is this your way of . . . moving on? Like, literally or something?”
I shook my head. “This isn't a stage of grief. I need to do this. I'm all the family Marah has left.” The accident had left us both widows, bonded in shared sorrow.
We both looked over as Marah came out of her house with the Realtor. She had let the dye fade out of her hair; it was glistening with silver. As she handed over the keys, a finality settled in my gut. This was it. No turning back.
“Move in with me,” Melissa said. “It'll be fun.”
I raised an eyebrow and grinned. “I think we may have different definitions of fun.”
“What happened to you?” she pouted. “The sister I knew wouldn't want to live with an old woman in a tiny town a million miles from here.” As I stepped to the driver's door of my rusty Honda, Melissa leaned her elbows on the silver roof. “Besides, isn't Marah, like, super religious?”
I laughed. “She has a strong faith, yes.”
Melissa wrinkled her nose. “That's not what I mean. She wears funny clothes – ”
“For modesty,” I interjected.
“She doesn't watch modern TV, or listen to any decent music – ”
“'Cause most of it's trash.”
“That's what I mean,” my big sis' jabbed a finger at me. “She's got so many rules. It's like a cult or something. How are you going to live if you go with her? She's gonna turn you into one of them.”
I glanced back to my mother-in-law, if I could still call her that. She was the strangest, most special woman I knew. “There are worse things,” I murmured. My sister would never understand, but I actually hoped Marah would change me. If I had faith like her . . . I let the thought trail off with a wistful sigh.
Marah came up, her lined eyes red. She glanced between my sister and me, feeling the tension. She took my hand and whispered, “You don't need to do this.”
Melissa shot me a glance, but I squeezed Marah's hand back as I said, “Yes, I do.”
Melissa stepped back as Marah climbed in the car. My sister came around the front and stood in front of me with her arms crossed and her head tilted. “You're crazy, you know. Where are you going to work? Do you have an apartment waiting for you? Seriously, do you even have any money saved?”
Worry niggled. I had two bags in the back of my trunk, a box of memories in the back seat, and a map to a different country. That was it. We had no idea what we would find when we returned to Marah's rural hometown.
“I'll be fine,” I said, lifting my chin. "God will see us through."
Melissa sighed and pulled me into a tight hug. She whispered, emotion pulling on her voice, “Call me when you get there. If they have phones, that is.”
I chuckled, “Of course they do,” But then, I wasn't so sure. Maybe this new country would be completely different. I swallowed my doubts.
I opened the driver's door and slid behind the wheel. The faded air freshener smelled faintly of vanilla--like the ghost of a home. I glanced around to make sure I had everything. The cup holders each held a travel mug of coffee. A small bag was packed with apples and peanut butter sandwiches. Two sleeping bags were tucked behind the passenger seat. I hid a sigh. I didn't look forward to using them, but we were on a tight budget; there would be no drive-thrus or hotels. I had a couple of hundred dollars in my wallet, just enough for gas. This trip was reckless. Definitely not me. Yet, here I was.
I took a deep breath and started the Honda. It coughed to life.
“Please, get us there safe,” I whispered, but I wasn't speaking to the car.
I shifted into gear, took a deep breath, and drove away with my sister in my rear-view mirror. I straightened my shoulders and took a deep breath through my nose. Though I was determined, it didn't mean fear wasn't pecking in the corner of my brain. How would a big-city girl like me fit into a tight-knit community? Would I be able to find work? Would Marah's old house still be decent for habitation? The worries began to swirl like a dust devil, and I took a deep breath to blow them away. 'Have faith,' I told myself. Marah believes God wants her to go home. He'll see us through.
Marah leaned her head against the window and stared through the glass as we drove out of the city and onto the freeway. I merged into traffic nervously, going too slow, and then having to gun it to make it into the right lane. Alex had done all the highway driving. I swallowed hard. It had been a year, but it still hurt to think of him.