Tue, 28 April 2009 - 6:50 pm

Strange goodbyes

The rain let up sometime last night, and we left my house this morning to head south again. It was a strange goodbye, locking it up as if it mattered that thieves might get in.

I put the key back under the flowerpot, in case Dad returned one day and needed it. Then I stepped back and looked at the house. The image didn’t fit in my head properly.

 

I grew up in that house. I played with Matt in the back yard, fought with my sister and my mother in the kitchen, snuck out the back door when Dad wasn’t looking. I walked through the wake a week after Chastity died, dressed up in black. A few months later, I watched my mother drive away for the last time from the doorway, her car packed with her everything, heading for another city far from us. In my memories, my dad is as solid and constant as the house itself.

I didn’t take much from the house. I spent yesterday going through my stuff, trying to decide what mattered to me now. There are certificates from school and silly little outfits that I loved to go out in. Ridiculous shoes and complicated makeup I spent hours putting on. Old letters with girly secrets and post cards from places I’ll never go to. None of it means anything any more.

I laughed over some of the stuff I found, turning it over like an archaeologist wondering what on earth she had stumbled on. I remembered things I haven’t thought about in years – like when Chastity broke my bike and tried to hide it (I still have the fractured seat in the back of the wardrobe – I still don’t know how she did that), and the time I tried to sneak out of the house by climbing down the trellis only to discover that it wasn’t as strong as it looks. I told whoever was at hand about it – Ben or Matt or Dillon; even Sally came to sit with me for a while.

I cried a few times, partly because I knew that I won’t sit in that room again. I was picking up those pieces of my past, looking at them and then saying goodbye.

I took a few photos, mostly of Chastity and Dad. I went through my clothes and picked out pieces that were clean and sensible – I’ve lost so much weight that not much of it sits comfortably on me now. It’s as if I have slipped out of this life and can’t fit into it any more. I’m taking scraps and shards with me, but they barely feel like mine.

I tucked my favourite dress into the bottom of my pack, just in case I feel like wearing it one day, though I can’t imagine what that day would be like. This world is so far from skirts and makeup that it’s strange to think about wearing them again. I guess the dress means that I haven’t given up hope completely yet.

 

Now we’re on the move again, pointing towards the ECC, weaving through deserted streets like skittering puppies. The group have all been good to me, patient while I try to work out what the last couple of days mean.

I’m trying to see it as a good thing. I’m glad the house is still standing, waiting for us to wake up from this nightmare and come home. It doesn’t know that we’re not dreaming, as much as we might wish we were.

I didn’t find the answer I was looking for. I’m no closer to finding Dad than I was before we got here, but at least I know that he survived for a while. He waited until the cupboards were picked clean and then he went somewhere else. I don’t know if I’ll ever know where he went, but maybe someday I’ll find out. I still have hope, even if it’s thin at the moment, translucent at best. I look at Ben and know I was lucky, and I feel guilty for not feeling luckier.

A part of me wonders if he went to find me in the centre of the city that tried to fall on us. It’s the sort of thing he’d do. I hope not. I hope he stayed away from that particular branch of hell. I never want to go back there.

There’s an ache in my chest that won’t go away. It catches at me when I’m not paying attention, heavy and pressing, and it touches the corners of my eyes. I wonder if this is what Sax felt after he left his saxophone in his daughter’s empty home.

I left Dad a note before I left, pinned to the fridge with the violently-coloured magnets I made when I was seven. Just in case.

 

Dad,

It’s April and I finally made it home. Sorry I didn’t get here earlier.

I’m with a group called the Seekers. We’re heading south to the ECC. I don’t know if we’ll come back this way.

It’s your birthday next week. I hope you have a happy one, wherever you are. I’ll be thinking of you.

Love you. Miss you. Hope you’re all right.

Yours,

Faith

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