Sarah slammed the car door and stood for a moment in her parents’ driveway staring up at the house she hadn’t seen since she graduated. She hated this town and the second she’d been able to leave, she hadn’t come back. Until now.
She was close with her parents, but they always came to visit her. But that had been before her dad died. She opened her trunk and pulled out the duffle bag she stuffed with her essentials. The rest of her things were coming by moving van next week.
Halfway up the driveway her mom, Elise, opened the front door and gingerly made her way down the stairs with her cane.
“Welcome home, hun!” Elise raised a shaky arm up to hug her.
“Hey Mom.” She kept her arm wrapped around Elise’s shoulder as they slowly shuffled back into the house. She felt her body cringed as she walked inside the house that had a felt like a prison all those years ago hiding from the gossip and prying eyes.
“Have you had dinner yet?” Sarah asked.
“Um, no.” Elise thought for a second. “No, not yet.”
“Okay, how about I cook us something.” She left her bag on the stairs to take up later and together they walked into the kitchen.
“Mom, were you cooking something?” Sarah asked, seeing that one of the burners was red hot.
“No,” Elise shook her head and sat down at the kitchen table. She clasped her hands in front of her and smiled at her.
Sarah turned the stove off and tried to quell the ache in her heart. Her dad had told her Elise was getting worse, but she didn’t understand just how bad it was until he was gone. He recently died of a heart attack and with her dad no longer around to keep things running smoothly, Elise seemed to be going downhill rapidly.
She opened the fridge and found half a jar of pickles and a carton milk.
* * *
An hour later, they were sitting in Elise’s favourite restaurant when a couple of her mom’s friends wandered over to their table.
“Well if it isn’t little Sarah! How long did you disappear this time?” Bernice chuckled.
Sarah gave a tight-lipped smile, but didn’t say anything.
“Don’t tease her, Bernice,” Jackie said, patting Sarah’s hand. “Some things are better forgotten.”
Sarah still didn’t know what happened to her for that month she disappeared when she was a kid. As far as she was concerned, it just evaporated. She couldn’t even pinpoint when the gap would have been. She remembered everything from the moment she turned away from Sam and everyone else to go into the house, to the time she ran back out and sprinted home. To her, nothing was missing in her memory.
Because of that, everyone thought she was lying. Some people thought she ran away from home to be with some boy. Others, like Elise, thought she’d been kidnapped, but whatever happened to her was so traumatic, she’d simply blocked it out. Still others just thought she was doing it for the attention and had purposefully disappeared for a month to make people notice her.
To her chagrin, the women pulled up chairs and continued gabbing with her mom. Sarah let her mind drift while they talked. It wasn’t until the end of the meal when the attention swung around to her again.
“I expect you’re looking for a job then, if you’ve moved here,” Bernice said, looking pointedly at her.
Sarah refocused on the conversation and nodded. “In the next few days I’ll start asking around to see who’s hiring.”
“Don’t bother. I have the perfect job for you,” Bernice said, a grin spreading across her face. “The mansion is hiring a new assistant!”
“What?” Sarah asked, confused.
“You remember that old fuddy-duddy who never tells us anything about what’s going in that house? Well, she’s retiring and she’s asking around looking to hire her replacement.” Bernice was nearly shaking with excitement. She reached out and clasped Sarah’s hands as Jackie leaned forward. “You could apply for it and tell us everything!”
Sarah sat back in her chair stunned. She had a different thought. Maybe she could go back and finally figure out what happened during that missing month. Whatever had happened, had happened in that house.