The train rocked rhythmically. Going home …….. going home …….. going home. I stared out of the window as the countryside flashed past on fast-forward. I was going home. I felt a sense of anticipation. Thoughts of memories made my heart flutter.
I had been two years away from the little town where I was born and raised, where I went to school and college, where I used to have friends and boyfriends, where I grew up and had my first love affairs, where my father still lived. Two years!
I still remember the day I left. It was the second Wednesday in March, just after eight in the morning. Outside, the morning was crisp and slightly frosty. Inside, however, the fire was burning and warmth engulfed the whole room.
I was enjoying my last cup of tea with my father during which I sat listening to his continuous advice on what to do and not to do in the big city. My mother had died a year earlier and we had become closer to each other.
Then I hurried to my room upstairs, packed my bag and made my last preparations. I went down, hugged and kissed my father, both of us making promises to keep in touch and then I left, not wanting him to see me crying.
Two years! Even though I had not seen my father these last two years, he was a constant companion to me. He phoned, he wrote, he sent things from home, he asked about me. He was a pillar of strength to me especially when I was feeling down.
I had been working in the city as a Research Assistant at the large University there. I immersed myself in my work and never looked back. This work gave me satisfaction and a sense of responsibility. Thoughts of home and of how my father was coping were however often on my mind.
The train sped on, the landscape changing only slightly. Why did the journey seem to take so long? Recollections of my father passed through my mind – taking me window-shopping in the High Street on Saturday mornings when I was still a child; fretting over me when I had a cold or a sore throat; making endless cups of tea; baking my favourite jam tarts; cooking my dinners when I returned from work in the evenings; and so many other memories that flashed across my mind as I looked pensively from the window.
The train had now slowed down. It was approaching the station. It had been a long journey. I was home ……. I was home! I was anxious to be with my father, to see how he was, to look after him, now that he had retired from work.
He often used to tell me to settle down with a man, get married and start a family like all girls do eventually. “Don’t become an old spinster!” he used to admonish me. “You’ll feel safer in a family surrounded by a loving husband and boisterous children!”
I alighted hurriedly from the train, passed the station and noted the old stationery shop on the left and the cafeteria on the right. The same old man was behind the stationery counter. Things don’t change much, I thought.
I hailed a taxi. “No. 55, Baxter Street, please.” I told the driver. I was back to my roots. I intended to settle down here again, get work, look after my father, face the future together and see what destiny had in store for me.
My heart began to beat faster and my pulse quicker. “Here you are Miss, this is your place,” said the driver. I alighted from the taxi, paid and thanked the driver, grabbed my case and walked down the pathway to the front door.
The place looked lovely, I thought. The gate was replaced with a new one, the grass in the front was cut and crisp, the door had a new coat of paint and shone. Dad is using his retirement time to good use. I was glad for him.
He opened the door wide. He must have seen me from the window. I dropped my case and ran as fast as I could towards him, almost knocking him over as I threw my arms around his neck and hugged and kissed him. We were back together again after two years.
As I raised my head, a slight movement inside the room caught my eye. A fair-haired woman, in her fifties, looked slightly embarrassed. She held her hands tightly together in front of her and was smiling almost apologetically. Surprised, I released my father from our embrace and stepped back slowly.
“Who …?” I began. He coughed and cut me short. “Pauline dearest, do you remember Peter Collins, the one who owned the local pharmacy who died a few years back? Well, Mary here is his widow and we’ve got to know each other well over the last couple of years. Well, actually we’re getting married!”
I backed away from him. I grasped at the door frame, feeling sick and about to faint. My mouth opened and closed. I could think of nothing to say. I just stared at him blankly. “How could you do this to me? How could you? Daddy, how could you? “