Isabella opens the chest of her childhood, a very different chest indeed.
Isabella was twenty-four years old when she came back to her small hometown, forgotten between the shrubs of time and the hills of oblivion. She drove her white Camry into the driveway of a wooden, two story house which appeared to be barely enduring the winds of the passing years and the dust of age. She killed the engine and checked her reflection in the rearview mirror; she reached for her purse and took out her make-up bag. She unzipped it, took her cherry red lipstick, and started re-applying lipstick on her already red, glossy lips. She gathered her stuff and got out of the car.
A couple was standing in the porch of the house, that same porch where she received her first kiss after her kindergarten graduation. Their hands were clasped together and both of them were shedding tears of happiness at the sight of their long gone daughter. Isabella smiled at the tearful sight and walked toward her parents. She wrapped her slender arms around them in a warm embrace and bestowed a kiss in their tear-stained cheeks.
“Isa, how have you been all these years?” her shaken mother asked her elegant daughter as she was ushered inside the homely house.
Isabella flipped her golden hair behind her shoulder and batted her long eyelashes several times as her blue eyes scanned the room of the house she left behind so long ago. She never really liked the place she grew up in; it was plain to say the most. The furniture remained the same after all these years and the smell of dust had indeed increased. She stood, modern and regal, in the middle of the comforting antiquity; an epitome of beauty and change in the stale room. Her eyes went back to her mother’s expectant face. She had almost forgotten about the question directed to her.
“I’ve been very good mother,” Isabella responded, shedding her linen, black jacket and carefully laying it on the flowery couch. She gently sat down in the armchair, the place where she used to sit whenever a good book fell on her hands during her quiet teenage years. Her gaze fell upon the crochet work of her mother lying on the low table before her. Reminiscence of her younger years flooded back to her mind as she recalled her prior eagerness to learn the arts of crocheting and knitting from the adorable lady that was his mother. “How have both of you been?”
“Not better than yourself, I declare!” the excited voice of her proud father echoed through the room, “Nora, why don’t you serve our child some tea?”
“It won’t be necessary,” Isabella leant back against the armchair’s back and crossed her slender legs. “I have to go soon, I have a dinner with a businessman in the city and thought I’d pass by to say hello.”
Her father chuckled again with gleaming pride in his eyes. “Our little girl is now a fully grown businesswoman! Tell us all about it. We deserve to know after so many years of not knowing about your whereabouts and affairs.”
Her mother nodded, “tell us, why didn’t you returned any of our calls? We were worried about you.”
Isabella smiled pleasantly, a bitter taste rolled in her tongue. “I am sorry for worrying the two of you; I was so submerged in my education and later on in my work. As an overview, I graduated with honors from Business in a university on the other side of the country. I am working for one of the richest company in the world and enjoying the many trips and apartments I own throughout the country. Your little girl did something with her life.”
“We’re happy to hear that, sweetie,” her mother smiled with affection, “it is a pity you cannot stay with us longer, perhaps we can visit you sometime or we can arrange something to be together as the family we are.”
“Just like the old times!” her father interjected. “What do you think about that, Isa?”
Isabella hesitated in answering. Her eyes were now fixed on the descending sun, casting warm strays of lights on the horizon bordered by ragged clouds. The shade of what used to be her favorite tree reached inside the house and its silhouette contrasted with the fading orange sky, the unwanted wooden swing still swayed with the wind. “I wish I could,” she finally said, “but my agenda is really busy right now, perhaps next year.” She reached in her jacket’s pocket and took out her business card. She handed it to her father with an air of indifference, “this is my telephone and office hours, call me whenever you need something. Don’t visit me with prior notice. Glad I came back to see you.” She smiled kindly as she stood up, then added, “I missed both of you.”
Fresh tears trickled from her mother’s face as she hugged her daughter and kissed her several times, refusing to let her go despite Isabella’s many pleas.
“Mother, it is getting late and I have to go or else we’ll lose this deal,” Isabella said with the gentlest of tone and sympathy. “I promise to visit more frequently; we have good business relations in this city.”
Her mother nodded and let go of her only child. She sniffed in her apron, sown by Isabella so many years ago, and watched as her husband hugged their child. He was more composed and wished his “baby” good luck. Isabella took her jacket and exited the house. She walked the creaking wood panes of the porch and down the driveway overgrown with grass on the sides. She opened her Camry’s door and slid inside. She waved at the hugging couple before driving away into the winding roads of her small town.
The first stars were appearing in the sky above, greeting her back to the sky she’d known so well for many years. A tear rolled down her cheek and her lips trembled with emotion. She left her home right after high school graduation without notifying her parents, she was always a free spirit kind of person. She traveled across the country, away from the prison that held her back, and she worked hard and studied to earn a degree so that later on she could join the workforce and earn a living. For more than seven years, the thoughts of her parents never crossed her mind, until today when she landed in the airport. She decided to visit them, to revive old memories.
She felt beaten and broken. Toys, baby blankets, and fantasy books no longer existed for her mind. They represented nothing. They were long forgotten in a chest. The place where this chest lay was cold, dark, and dusty. She had chocked in tears on her way there, on her way to the place that sheltered many of her memories: her home.
She wasn’t sure she’d ever want to open that chest again.