A Short Story by Rachel Hesler

Temple Christian School


Second Place-- Junior/Senior Division


Driving Home


     I'm driving away from home. I look back at the house with tears in my eyes, wishing I could stay, but knowing I can't. My mother waves from the sidewalk, trying to be brave. Without taking her eyes off the bus--off me--she slowly backs into the house and closes the door. My hand touches the place on the window where she stood. I try to remember what she told me that morning as I dressed for school. "Don't ever forget, okay? Make the best of what you're given, and give the best of what you're made of."


    I'm coming home, excitement and hesitance etched on my face. My mother stands at the corner, anxiously awaiting my return. She holds my hand as I walk back to the house. "How was your first day?" she asks as I wonder if it is all right not to miss her while I'm gone. I love her, and I was scared to be without her, but I realized that I could do things on my own, even if she wasn't always there next to me.


    I'm driving away from home, wishing I could stay, but knowing I can't. My mother watches from the window. She grips the pane of glass with her right hand; her left hand dashing away the salty tears that streak down her face. I put my hand on my stomach; my memory of my mistakes hurts worse than the pain that comes a few months later. I will never forget how terrified I was that night. The pain was so intense, and not a single hand to hold, no shoulder to cry on. I was afraid to leave, but now I'm afraid to come home.


    I'm coming home now. My empty eyes and empty arms have no feeling. I sleep for most of the ride home. When I arrive at the bus stop, I contemplate taking the next bus away from this town and never returning. Instead, I summon all my strength and decide to face the ridicule. I tell the cab driver to take me home. My mother stands at the corner, pacing back and forth. I can see that she is fighting the sobs that work their way to the surface. I am hesitant as I climb out the cab, will she still love me? There was no question about it. She holds my hand as we make our way back to the house, and as we cry together that night in my room. "I'm sorry," I whisper.


    "Forgive me?" she sobs.


    I'm driving away from home; glad to be gone, but sad to leave. This new life seems daunting, but everyone does it. At least I'll be with friends. My mother held me before as I tried to leave, rocking back and forth. She doesn't want to let go of me, so I have to pry her arms from around me, and gently set them at her sides. "It's time to grow up," I say; and I do.


    I'm coming home now. Christmas break this week. I wrote mom to tell her I was coming home and she's meeting me at the airport. I know she hates it that I go to college so far away, but I need the space to find out who I am. I lie in my chair on the plane, attempting sleep, but failing. Needing to tell my mother so many things, but never finding the right words. So many things have happened already. My heart has been broken, friends made and lost, people alienated, and teachers hated. I wonder how much to tell her. How much is enough to tell a mother? When has the line been crossed between mommy and confidant? I hold back from her, not saying what I wish I would have. In the end, though, what I said or didn't say isn't what is important. The fact that I told her some seemed to be enough for her. "Everyone has their secrets," she told me.


    I'm driving away from home now. I finally have a car to drive away in. During high school money was too tight to afford a second car. The car cost me $1,650. My savings are now almost completely gone. Now the question of whether or not I can stay in school looms above me. My mother says we can make it. She never told me, but I later learned, that she had been working two jobs at the time. I felt so guilty that she had to make so many sacrifices for me. When I said this to her, she simply sat back and said, "Don't you ever feel guilty for what I had to do. I never went to college, and that's something I will always regret. If my work can get my baby through college, then I would gladly work five jobs to do it!"


    I'm coming home now. I told my mom I would stay here for a while, at least until I found a job somewhere else. She told me she would love to come with me, but with the house and her two jobs she already has, it would be too difficult. I have always wanted to leave this town, never to return, but now it seems that I'll be here for some time. I have had one job offer already from an elderly businessman here in town, however I declined. The idea of staying here, becoming one of the "townies" so to speak makes me want to scream! I don't know if I'll ever resign myself to the fact that this town will always be a part of me. I thought about staying, because I was a little bit scared at the prospect of leaving the nest, but I decided that if I didn't go for it I would regret it the rest of my life. That is one decision I am so glad I made.


    I'm driving away from home now. With knots in my stomach and a lump in my throat, I hug my mother goodbye. It seems silly to me now, being scared of moving a mere two hours away, but when you're twenty-two years old it is overwhelming. With each new step up the stairs to my apartment, I feel stronger. Heady with the freedom I have been handed, I find myself out of sorts as to what I should do next. As I settle into my job, meet new people, and get accustomed to being alone for the first time, I take time in the evenings to call my mother. Hearing her voice makes it seem as though she is standing right behind me, her hand stroking my hair. I feel myself growing more and more independent with each passing day, and soon the melancholy I first felt has waned to a mere gnawing of homesickness.


    I'm driving home now to introduce my boyfriend to my mother. I laugh as he taps his foot in the car, nervousness making him uneasy. I tell him that if I love him, then my mom will, too. Of course, I am right. They instantly hit it off, joking and laughing the way old friends do. That is how I knew he was the one. The connection between us, and between him and my mother is so strong. Human connection is something that never fails to amaze me. The way that just a look can spark laughter or tears. How, by a simple touch of his hand, I get tingles. The bond between us seems to bridge any gap that differences sometimes make. We fight sometimes, but I know he will always be there for me, with his strong shoulder and his gentle hand holding mine.


    I'm driving away from home now. My apartment packed up and ready to move. With yards of lace and satin piled around me, I look through a veil of tears at my life as it was before. I remember the day my mother held my hand on the way to the bus my first day of school. Now, she holds it as we make our way down the aisle. The warm sun shines on her hair through the stained glass window, making my eyes tear up again. I don't want to let it go and neither does she, but childhood must end. A new life is beginning for me.


    I'm coming home now. Not to the home of my past, but of my future. My mother is not here, the window devoid of her familiar face. A new face looks at me, love in his eyes, as he carries me over the threshold. A new hand holds mine now when I need to vent, or just because. With every new day that comes and goes, our love grows stronger. I never imagined that I could be so completely wrapped up in one person. When you love someone--really love someone--all selfish ambition is extinguished. The most wonderful part about it is that the person you love feels the same for you. Every day I discover something new about him, and one more reason why I love him. I still feel a bit like I'm playing house, but I know we can do it.


    I'm driving away from the house. The anger inside of me is so intense that I wonder if I should even be at the wheel. We just got in our first fight, my husband and I. It was so stupid, and I cannot even remember what it was about. Tempers flared, voices raised, and we both said things I regret. I hate this. Never before have I been so angry and so sorry at the same time. Part of me wants to go back and forget this mess, and the other part of me rears its ugly head and tells me to run from it. I finally give in to the angel on my shoulder.


    I'm coming home, home to the uncertainty of newly wedded bliss. His is standing at the window, peering out as he talks on the phone trying to find me. I can see his relief from the car when he spots me. As I get out of the car, he walks toward me with tentativeness. We don't speak, only embrace to find ourselves made whole again. The apologies are in our eyes as we struggle to find the words to convey our feelings. The chasm that was between us just hours before is now bridged. I think that sometimes love works the same way as the body does. In order to build more muscle, the muscle itself must first tear to begin building more muscle. In order to build a stronger relationship, sometimes, it is necessary to break down certain barriers even if it hurts at the time. It has always been my belief that challenges make you stronger. You have to use the harsh winters of your life to be able to enjoy the summers. My husband and I have been through our first winter, but summer is on the horizon for us. I know it.


    I'm driving away from home. I try to breathe as the pain climaxes and my strength wanes. Holding onto me with all his might, as if to keep me from falling apart, my husband speeds through the wet streets. When we arrive at the hospital, my mother is there waiting for us. She knowingly looks into my eyes, asking how I'm doing. Our little secret has stayed a secret for so long I had almost forgotten. I have a feeling the doctor can tell, but he wisely says nothing. I wonder where he is, my little boy. I find it hard to concentrate as I bear down and push. Life becomes new in the next moment as tears stream down our faces. When it's over, I fall back exhausted. A few minutes later my hand is being gripped so tightly it makes my heart hurt. My husband doesn't know the real reason for my tears. Maybe someday I will tell him. Then again, perhaps I won't.


    I'm coming home now. I shake as the weight of this tiny body presses down upon me. Memories long held at bay flood my thoughts. When we arrive home, my mother is there once again. She knew I would need her now in a way that my husband would never comprehend. Later that night, when my husband has long since been exhausted with the excitement of he hourly feedings, my mother and I silently cry. "I'm sorry," she whispers.


    I'm driving away from home now. It is only months after the birth of my new daughter. One life has been given, and one life taken. The vicious cycle of life has found us and claimed a victim. I feel numb inside, as though I am the one that has died. I thought she was invincible. Thinking of all the times I took up what free time she had, I feel ashamed. Once, when I was six, my friend had a birthday party and my favorite dress was ruined, she stayed up the whole night to make me a new one. We didn't have the money, and she couldn't afford the sleep, but she did it anyway. I want to break down and scream at the injustice of this malady, but just as my mom did, I have to be strong for my little girl. I will be the mother to her that mine was to me. It suddenly hits me what a short time I have with her. She may be only four months old, but time passes too quickly these days.


    "Make the best of what you're given, and give the best you're made of," my mother once said. I will pass these words on to my daughter, just as she someday will to hers. That way my mother will always be here, and so will I.