It was autumn.
The apples in my father's orchard were beginning to turn from sunshine yellow to blushing red, with half rosy complexions like children who've been playing all afternoon in the snow.
The house was newly whitewashed that summer and my mother hired a man to paint us a portrait of it. We hung the picture of home above the mantle where Grandma's ashes rested in a blue and white porcelain urn that reminded me of her tea set. We still had it in the attic. It was one of her wedding presents.
Grandpa sometimes sat for hours in the arm chair in front of the fireplace, staring at that urn. He scratched his head every so often like he couldn't quite grasp something at the edge of his memory. That was probably what was going on. His memory was deteriorating. Coyote, my older brother's youthful mutt that looked more like an overgrown fox than a dog, lay at his feet. Grandpa never pet him. But Coyote just laid there nonetheless.
It was one of those October days when the jack 'o' lanterns seem to sprout from from front porches and doorsteps. The air had a cool edge to it that almost caught you off guard in still moments when a breeze suddenly blew by. Grandpa had fallen asleep in his arm chair the night before, I noticed as I tip-toed quietly outside for an early morning walk. I smiled at his familiar form and kissed his cheek very softly before I left.
The wind pulled my hair from my face as I made my way down the hill from our house and paced quickly around the cresent shaped neighborhood nearby, hands in pockets as usual.
Nothing was out of the ordinary until I was climbing the drive back to the big white house and I heard commotion from inside. My heart began to race. Terrible images filled my mind. Someone was desperately yelling out, "Josie, Josie!" over and over.
"Get off of me! Who are you?! What are you doing in my house!?" Grandpa screamed in a voice I'd never heard before, "Where's Josie! What have you done with her?! GIVE HER BACK."
I shuddered, seeing him throwing a tantrum like that. He slapped my father with the heel of his hand and flung my mother away. He was crazed.
Until he saw me. We both froze.
"Josie," he cooed. Forgetting all else but this name.
"Josie," he repeated, picking up his cane and hobbling towards me, "My sweet Josie."
I stood in the threshold, petrified as this strange man put his arms around me.
Josie. Short for Josephine. My grandmother's name.