“It’s amazing how much junk there is in this house,” says Mom.
I’m the one helping her sort through stuff in the attic, so she’s not going to get any argument from me. Rose is at Laurie’s.
“When did Dad’s parents move here?” I wonder how long it takes to collect this much stuff.
“Before he was born. Your grandfather always said it was the year Kennedy was assassinated.”
“Which Kennedy? Weren’t there a couple that got shot?”
“JFK, the President. 1963.”
“So this is fifty years of stuff.” That explains it.
Mom nods. “Thank goodness your grandmother wasn’t a saver. She threw out a lot of things. It could be worse. But I don’t think she ever came up here.”
I take a swig from my water bottle. “She’d have died of the heat.”
Mom smiles. “You’re right.”
“Most houses around here don’t even have attics.”
“True. This place was probably built by someone who moved here from back East. Most of the older houses back there have attics. I think it was the sixties when they started building one-story houses without them.”
“So there are a lot of older houses back there? Is our new house an old one?”
“You saw the photos online, Tina. It’s a very nice house built about ten years ago.”
“Does it have an attic?”
“Just an airspace, but it does have a basement.”
“We’ll have to make sure we don’t collect this much stuff in the basement.”
“You’re absolutely right!” says Mom. “You’ve been helping all morning. Do you want to go spend some time with Mary now?”
“No, I’ll stay and help you. She’s going to Grand Junction with her mom today, to get school clothes.”
“If you’d said something, I could have let you go with them with my credit card.”
“No, I think I want to wait until I see what people wear at my new school, before we go buy a bunch of clothes. What if it’s majorly different, you know?”
We finish cleaning out the attic half way through the afternoon.
“I think we deserve a break.” Mom goes through our to-do list. “We have cleaned, taken carloads of stuff to the thrift store, done repairs and painting according to the realtor’s directions, and this place is ready for the open house this weekend. Let’s throw the cooler into the car, the kayaks onto the roof, get your sister, pick up some deli food for dinner, and spend the rest of the day at the river.”
“You weren’t expecting me to argue, were you?”
So that’s what we do. It’s a beautiful hot August day. The river is low, so the water is pretty warm and the current’s slow enough that I can paddle upstream far enough to have fun coming back down. It’s calm enough, I even tie a rope to the second kayak and help Rose get upstream far enough to ride down.
It’s a great day.
We head home when it starts to get dark. Rose is bushed and zonks out in the car. Mom carries her to bed while I take the kayaks off the car. Then Mom and I sit on the back deck in the dark, drinking sodas.
“I love the stars here,” Mom says.
“The stars will still be above us. Same ones, right?” I joke. “We’re not going to the Southern Hemisphere or anything.”
“No, but they won’t be as bright, even on dark nights. Altitude really does make a difference.”
“For real,” she says. For the first time she sounds sad that we’re leaving.
“Is this job really that important to make us all move like this?” I ask. “State colleges are good enough, and they’re not so horribly expensive.”
“That’s not the only reason for your father to take this job. He’d hit a dead end here. His work was beginning to bore him to death. He needed this challenge, and the promotion is giving him the recognition and reward that he’s deserved for years.”
“Good. I thought it was all about college, and I didn’t want you two to be miserable on my account.”
She puts her arm around my shoulder. “We’re not going to be miserable, not any of us. It’s a new type of adventure, that’s all.”
“When’s the moving van coming?” I ask.
“Monday. The realtor wanted furniture in place for the open house, but we need to pack up everything we can and stack it all in the garage before Saturday.”
“Thanks for the afternoon off.”
“I needed it, too.”
Her cell phone rings.
“Hi honey,” she says. “We’re almost ready for the movers, and we had a wonderful afternoon down at the river. Has the deal closed on our new house?”
She walks inside as she continues chatting with Dad. I stay in the yard, enjoying Rocky Mountain stars while I still can.
The next days go quickly. I go over to Mary’s and see all her new school clothes, and hear all about the shopping trip with a couple of our other friends. Then she comes over to our house and helps pack stuff. Mom says the movers wanted too much to do all of that. Even with Dad’s new job, she can’t see spending money on something she can do herself. She even priced renting a truck and towing the car behind it, but Dad talked her out of that. I think he felt guilty he wouldn’t be here to help with the lifting and loading.
Friday night, I stay over at Mary’s and we sneak out to a party down by the river. Someone hands me a beer and I take a tiny sip because I’m thirsty, but I don’t really like the stuff, so mostly I just hold the bottle.
“Shoot,” says Tim, the boy who took me to the dance. “Thought you were going to be designated driver for everyone once you got your license.”
“I’m not really drinking. But I don’t have my license yet, either.”
“Are you really moving? That’s what people have been saying.”
“Yeah, we leave Monday.”
“That sucks,” he says.
We end up walking away from everyone and kissing some, but he’s really not that great a kisser, or maybe I’m just not into it tonight. When we get back to the group, I find Mary.
“You ready to go?” I ask, even though she’s standing in a group with Ronny, the guy she’s been crushing on for the last six months.
“It’s your last night. You sure you want to leave?”
I can tell she wants to stay, so I stick around until she’s ready to go.
Saturday morning, once Mary finally wakes up, we walk over to my house, where the realtor has everything ready to start the open house at noon. Mom takes us all back to the river for the day, Mary and Laurie, too. We have fun, but all day I’m thinking about people walking through our house, about how Mary’s already moving on to new friends, and the fact that Monday evening I’ll be on my way to a new life I didn’t ask for.
Sunday there’s nothing to do. Mom complains she’s crazy to drive anywhere when she’s got such a long drive ahead of her, but the three of us get into the car and we go to the closest easy fourteener and walk it with her. At the top, she looks across the mountain ranges and breathes in deeply. I look away when she blinks a few times. I know it’s tears. I so hope this new place works out for all of us.
The movers are there first thing Monday morning, loading up the truck amazingly fast. They make Mom sign papers listing everything they’re packing into the truck, because they have other people’s things in there, too. That’s why we’ll probably get to our new house ahead of them. They have to unload some stuff in Kansas on their way. I hope they don’t mix up our stuff with the other people’s things. Mom’s not really happy about that, either.
When they’re gone, we walk through the house one more time, top to bottom, inside and out, to make sure there’s nothing of ours left behind. Then we drive by the realtor’s office to drop off the key and meet Mary, Laurie, and their mothers at Jack’s for a goodbye ice cream. They surprise me with a cake and birthday presents from Mary and Mom.
“You didn’t really think I forgot tomorrow’s your birthday, did you?” asks Mom.
Actually I had thought exactly that, but I grin as if such a thought never crossed my mind. I tear into my presents, even though it means I won’t have anything to open the next day. Mom’s is a big photo of the view from our deck. Mary’s is a cool book with pictures of us growing up together, our families camping together, and all the places we really love. I get a little weepy at first, then we look at the photos together and remember good times and laugh.
“Skype me as soon as you have internet,” Mary says as she hugs me.
I’m about to get weepy again, so I get into the car. It won’t be the same, of course, and I know she’s already getting closer to the other girls. Hopefully, I’ll make some good friends, too.
The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.