with trembling hands, she turned the key.
"Okay, Grandma, I got them," Wendy whispered, handing a file to Edith.
The other she gave to Helen, who was also making a break for it. Edith quickly stuffed it into the front of her dress, sliding it around to the side. Lucky it was a cool day; with the bulky sweater over it, no one will notice. Helen, a smaller version of Edith, followed her example and hid her folder in the back waistband of her slacks, patting her sweater down over it.
A few years ago, Edith's son and daughter-in-law became worried about her living alone. Growing afraid that she might hurt herself in her own home, they brought her here, insisting she'd be happier among people her own age. Edith didn't want to leave home, but there was simply no arguing with them. They thought they were doing what was best.
Edith made the decision to go home. She and Helen had talked into the wee hours the night before, making their plans. First, they knew they needed a get-a-way car. Edith's granddaughter visited every Sunday so that was taken care of. Next, they needed to get their personal file folders from the office somehow. They couldn't leave the phone numbers of their families or the staff could track them down too easily. "Wendy's a smart girl, she'll figure a way." And she did. The staff were all inside the lounge so didn't notice her at the filing cabinet; it didn't take long to find the files.
The three women left the room carrying nothing except their jackets and purses, pretending to be going shopping. Laughing and talking animatedly about the sales going on at Sears, they left the lobby without a second look-feeling very smug.
When they reached the car, Wendy looked toward Edith, "Grandma, are you sure you want to do this? This is such a spur of the moment trip; you can’t have thought it through."
"Spur of the moment to you, dear, but not to me. I've been planning to go home since the day your daddy dropped me off and skedaddled back to his house, three years, five months, and twelve days ago. Helen has too. We'll be fine, don't you worry. Right, Helen?" Twisting to peer into the back seat, she smiled at her friend.
"Right, Edith. Now quit yakking and let's get out of here!" Helen snapped, nervously looking around the yard.
"Helen, you act like we're making a jail break for goodness sakes! Calm down."
They made the hundred-mile drive a leisurely one, stopping midway to get a bite to eat. The restaurant stood on front of the small lake that Edith and George used to like so much. Sitting by the window, looking out over the breeze-brushed water, Edith spoke of the times when she and George came here. They enjoyed taking a canoe out and the world, with its many stresses, would disappear for a while.
As they got closer to home, watching the landscape rush by, Edith noticed few changes. Things looked pretty much as they did three years ago. The leaves were changing colors to reds, golds, and greens. She loved being out in the country at this time of year. She and George often took drives to enjoy the colorful autumn leaves and field flowers.
"Stop up ahead, Wendy; I need to visit your Grandpa." It's been too long since I've had a talk with George.
“All right, Grandma."
Wendy found the cemetery road and parked as close as possible to Grandpa’s section. The two women, leaving Edith alone with her thoughts, wandered around the grounds. The quiet, peaceful gardens were filled with early fall blooming plants and trees. Soon these leaves would cover the ground with red and gold, announcing the changing of the season.
A half-hour went by before Edith called out that she was ready and the women returned to the car. The remainder of the trip was quiet. Edith was thinking of her talk with George, she surely missed him. “Spur of the moment, humph!”
"Did you say something, Grandma?"
"No, Dear, just thinking out loud."
A short time later, Wendy pulled into the driveway of the beloved, old frame house. The white paint was flaking and the yard was overgrown with grass and weeds; but it still had that warm, welcoming feeling she remembered. It was good to be here.
“Oh!” Edith quickly opened the car door and rushed up the leaf-strewed walk, not waiting for the others. She was home, no one would ever force her to leave it again until George came for her. With trembling hands she turned the key and gently pushed the door open, stepping inside.
Home. She walked through the rooms seeing all her things still in place. Shabby and dusty, but hers. With tear-blurred eyes she turned back and saw George's umbrella in the stand beside the door. A lovely black silk with a carved wooden handle. She had bought it for him on Christmas, twenty-five years ago. He'd used it constantly until he was unable to leave the house. She stepped over to take it in her hands to hold it a moment. Gently, she touched the place on the handle where George’s hands had begun to wear it smooth and placed her hand over it, closing her eyes. I'm home.
Wendy and Helen gingerly stepped into the house and gasped at how dirty everything was.
Wiping tears from her cheek, Edith smiled at the two, suddenly feeling full of energy. "Well, what did you expect? Of course it’s dirty. I'm home now though, and it will soon be clean again. You two can help. I'll get the broom. Helen, make yourself at home; the feather duster is hanging on the hook in that closet there. Whoops! I almost forgot. First we have to destroy these files.”
Finding the black feather duster exactly where Edith said it was, Helen stepped outside to knock it against the porch post, removing the dust. Wendy placed the hated folders into the fireplace and touched a match to them.
Edith laughed with delight as they stood grinning at each other, still holding the umbrella in her arms, watching the fire. The planning of this road trip had begun three years, five months, and twelve days ago. She was sure happy to be home at last.
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