Mama’s face lit up when she spied me through the old screen door.
“Well hello there, Sugar.” She said. “Ain’t you a sight for sore eyes.”
“Hello Mama.” I replied. “May I come in?”
“Well, of course you can, Honey. You ought ta know you don’t need to ask.” She said.
“Now, you come in here and sit on down. I’ll make you a nice cuppa tea and we’ll shoot the breeze.”
I watched her bustle about the kitchen, wincing a little at her choice of phrasing. I’d missed this; missed the simplicity of life here; missed the comfort of having my mother take care of me.
“Are you stayin’ for dinner?” Mama’s voice intruded into my thoughts. She placed the tea on the table and sat beside me.
“Actually, Mama, I need a place to lay low for a little while.” I said, quietly.
“Lay low?” Mama asked, worried. “Are you in some kind of trouble, Raeline?”
“I did some things I’m not proud of, got mixed up with the wrong kind of people.” I was staring into my mug, unable to look her in the eyes. “I’m trying to make it right, but I need to hide out for a while until things work themselves out.”
“And these people,” she asked shrewdly, “Are they likely to follow you here? Do I need to dig out your Pa’s old shotgun?”
“I don’t think so.” I said. “I’m pretty sure they don’t know where I’m from. But it might be a good idea. You know, just in case.”
“Right.” she said, firmly. “You head on out to the shed and look for that shotgun. I’ll get dinner started. Then you and I are gonna sit down with a glass of Old Jim, and you’re gonna tell me exactly what you’ve done so we can figure a way to fix it.”
I stood, shoulders slumped, feeling a strange mixture of fear, shame and uncertainty. “I’m sorry, Mama. I know I shouldn’t be putting you in danger like this.” I said, contradicting my earlier statement. “I couldn’t think of anywhere else to go.”
“Look at me, Raeline.” Still conditioned to obey, even after all these years, my eyes met hers for the first time that night. “You listen to me, Raeline. This is your home. You are always welcome here. You are my daughter. I love you. I will always help you. No matter what. You hear me?”
Mama drew me into her arms and relieved tears welled in my eyes as I felt safe for the first time in weeks. Mama rocked back and forth like I was a child, soothing sounds falling from her lips.
After a while she pulled back to look at me. After reassuring herself that I’d be ok, she shooed me out to the shed and began preparations for pie and peas, my favourite home-cooked meal. I smiled and stepped outside, finally allowing myself to hope. I was still worried but, with Mama’s help, I just might survive.
Just a little snippet that wouldn’t leave me alone. I’m not really happy with it, but at least it’s out of my head.