Comings and Goings


Comings and Goings


Phoenix Hocking

Glory Miller sat on her bed, lovingly caressing the broach she held in her hand. It had little value, beyond the sentimental, but she held it as if it were worth millions of dollars. She jumped when her sister, Faith, entered the room, creating a whirlwind of dust that followed her like a miniature tornado.

“Aren’t you ready yet?” Faith snapped. “I swear, Glory, you’ll be late for your own funeral. Get a move on!”

Glory gently placed the broach on top of the clothes in the suitcase beside her and closed the lid. “I’m coming,” she said softly. “I’m coming.”

“Well, hurry up. The kids haven’t got all day, you know.”

A tall, strapping young lad appeared in the doorway. “I can carry your suitcase for you, Meemaw,” he said.

She stood up, grunting a little as she did so, and grasped the bedpost for support. “That would be nice,” she said. “Thank you …” and she paused.

“Brian, Meemaw,” the young man said. “My name is Brian.”

“Of course. Thank you Brian.”

She grasped the railing tightly as they made their way downstairs. Brian bounded down ahead of her, and Faith held on to her elbow. At the foot of the stairs, Glory balked.

“Where am I going?” she asked. “Where am I going? I was born in this house. I don’t want to leave.”

Faith gave a huge, exasperated sigh. “Well, you can’t hardly stay here, now can you? Not after you about burned the whole house down.”

Glory looked perplexed. “What are you talking about?”

“Left the kettle on, didn’t you?” Faith snapped. “About burned the whole place down. If Roger hadn’t come when he did…”

“Oh, of course,” Glory said, remembering. “That.”

“Yes, that,” Faith answered. “Now, get a move on. The kids have got other things to do.”

She paused at the front door and looked back into the living room, at once so familiar and yet so strange. Half-packed boxes were everywhere, and a number of people Glory thought she was supposed to know seemed very busy packing and moving furniture.

“I was born in this house,” she said.

“Yes, Meemaw, I know,” said the young man, whose name she had already forgotten.

She was the baby of the family. Before her were David and Johnathan, Jedidiah, Ruth and Naomi, and of course, Faith, who was Glory’s elder sister by exactly seven minutes. All were gone now, except Glory and Faith. Twins, though dissimilar as oil and water.

Faith kept up a running conversation with … Brian, was it? Yes, Brian, in the front seat. Glory rode in the back, watching the road through the side windows. It had come to this, then. Somehow, she had known it would. From the first time she called her daughter Julie by her grandmother’s name, she knew she was destined to be put away. Out of sight, out of mind. She’d probably never see any of them again. They’d stick her in this place and forget about her.

Well, maybe she’d forget about them too, and it wouldn’t be so bad.

Glory was unaware she was crying until Faith turned around and said, “Oh good grief, Glory. What’s wrong with you? You’re going to a perfectly nice place. One where you won’t try and burn the house down. Jesus, get over yourself, would you?”

The words came out before Glory thought about them. “You’ve always hated me, haven’t you?”

Faith looked as though she’d been slapped. “Hated you? I never!” And she flounced around in her seat and faced forward, quiet for once.

There had always been animosity between them, even when they were children. Twins were supposed to be so close, but not Glory and Faith. If they’d been boys, Mother might have named them Esau and Jacob, because they fought in the womb like those Biblical characters.

Where Glory was quiet and shy, Faith was loud and obnoxious. Where Glory was the peacemaker, Faith was the troublemaker. They were two peas all right, but from entirely different pods.

Brian pulled up to a gate in front of a large building that looked like a small hospital. The property was fenced, and he pushed a button that allowed him entrance.

“Is this a prison?” Glory asked.

“No, Meemaw,” he said gently. “This is where you’ll be living. They just don’t want people wandering off.”

“Oh.” Her voice was small, and she felt a panic rising in her chest. “No!” she cried. “I don’t want to stay here. Please, I’ll be good. Take me home,” she wailed. “Take me home!”

“You can’t stay home!” Faith snapped. “You’ve gone all loopy and we can’t trust you. That’s just all there is to it. You’re going to live here, so you might as well get used to it.”

“No! No!”

Brian parked the car and two white-coated attendants came to open the back door. She pressed herself tightly against the back seat. “No!” she screamed. “I won’t go!”

“Oh, Jesus Christ, Glory, stop making a scene and get out of the car.” Faith reached in and grabbed her by the wrist.

“Stop it.” Brian’s quiet voice broke through the chaos. He squatted down in front of Glory so that he was eye-level with her. She looked like a rabbit caught in a trap, and his heart broke for her. “Meemaw,” he said quietly, “would it help if I told you I would come visit you every week?”

“No, you won’t,” Glory cried, tears rolling down her cheeks. “You’ll forget me. You’ll all forget me!”

“No, I won’t forget you. You might forget me, but I won’t forget you. I promise.”

She hiccupped as her tears subsided. “You promise?”

“I promise.”

He held out a hand, and after a moments hesitation, she grasped it. He helped Glory to her feet, and guided her to the front door.

The room to which Glory had been assigned was about the same size as her bedroom at home. It was bright and cheerful, with a window that caught the morning sun, and framed a park-like yard where the residents could gather when the weather was agreeable.

A pleasant young woman helped her get settled in, then stepped out to speak with Faith and Brian. Glory couldn’t hear what they were saying, but by the look on their faces, it was grim. They seemed to be arguing, but for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out why.

“But why?” Brian said loudly. “Why?”

“Because you have your own life to live, and you don’t need to be taking care of an old woman who won’t remember who you are in six months, that’s why!”

Their voices lowered again, and the argument continued, though they moved away from the door.

In a moment of lucidity, Glory realized what Faith and Brian were fighting about. Brian wanted her to come and live with him, and Faith was fighting him tooth and nail. That wouldn’t be fair, Glory thought. For once, Faith was right.

He was a nice boy, Brian was. She remembered now. He was her daughter’s son, her own grandson. Did she want to live with Brian and his family? Glory pondered the question. Did she? No, that’s wouldn’t be fair. He had his own life to live. He didn’t need to be burdened with her.

I guess I’ll just have to stay, she thought, and make the best of it.

Glory’s suitcase had been placed on the bed. She opened it and retrieved the broach.

Her husband had given it to her on their wedding day. It was a small cameo, and the face had been worn almost smooth over the years. Glory lovingly ran her fingers over it, and prayed, “Please, Lord, don’t let me forget this. Don’t let me forget him.”

She looked out the window to the grassy area where three women seemed to be in conversation with each other, laughing. No, wait. They were playing a game of some sort. What were they playing? She looked more closely, but couldn’t tell.

“Hey.” A man’s voice broke her concentration. She looked around to find a nice-looking older gentleman standing in the doorway.

“Hello,” she said.

“Who are you?” he asked. He really was quite handsome, with silver hair and twinkling eyes. He hunched over a little and his right hand shook slightly.

“I’m Glory,” she answered, and her heart skipped a little beat.

“I’m Jeff.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“So, would you like to go get a cup of coffee? It’s really pretty good here. I can show you where the cafeteria is.”

Glory’s fingers tightened around the cameo for a moment, then let the broach drop into her pocket. “Thanks,” she said. “I think I’d like that.”

Glory and Jeff passed by Brian and Faith, who were still arguing. They looked up in surprise.

“I’m going to go get a cup of coffee,” Glory said brightly. “I’ll see you later.”

And with that, she walked down the hall with a new friend, into a new life.


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