It was just an expression… forever. Like ‘You’re taking forever,’ or ‘Are we going to be here forever?’ or ‘This line goes on forever.’
To a ten year old eternity can be an hour and forever a minute.
She had cried into her pillow for an eternity then. Broken hearts were supposed to happen in fairy tales and then the hero was supposed to magically make it better. Prince Eric would snap out of the magic spell and rescue Ariel from the evil sea witch, Prince Phillip would give Sleeping Beauty her kiss, Simba became king of Pride Rock, and Aladdin and Jasmine got their new world. In fairy tales it was so easy, but in real life a broken heart wasn’t so easily mended. Disappointment wormed its way in, and it wasn’t just a sudden thing. It built so slowly until there wasn’t a defense left that could beat it back. Not even hope could dispel it, because that was all that was left when hope had run out. It was cold and unmerciful, and it just ate at you until there wasn’t anything but bitter tears and a soft pillow to cry them into.
They’d been to the store. She loved going to the store with her grandma. Grandma always bought her a candy bar or a drink and they would talk in the car. Grandma always stopped and talked to someone too. They took forever as her Grandma knew everyone in the county; at least it seemed like it. She didn’t really mind though. They were always nice to her, and asked her how she was doing and about 4-H and everything. Sometimes they would stop at the gas station before going home and Grandma would let her pump the gas. It was exciting, like being an adult.
“I’ll carry in some of the groceries,” she liked to help her grandma when they got home.
Grandma always called Tia her little helper and it made her sort of proud. She loved her grandma and grandpa. She helped them and they always helped her. Grandpa would fix her stuff when it broke, and grandma made the best food. Sometimes they would help her with homework if she needed it, and everything.
She was carrying the milk, and something else heavy but she saw that there was a note in the door. Grandma was lagging behind so she set the stuff down (which she would have done anyway since she needed to open the door).
I came by and you weren’t home. I’ll try back later.
It was a short note, but it was the most exciting note she could have received all day. He didn’t come very often. Maybe he was worried about running into mom, because since she was remarried it was weird between them. It didn’t matter she liked living with her grandparents even if she didn’t get to see her mom that often, but grandma babysat her two younger sisters (half sisters, technically) so she got to see her mom plenty. Dad didn’t come by so often.
She showed the note to her grandma after they had finished carrying in the groceries, Tia was really excited.
“When do you think he’ll be back?” it was less of a question and more of a demand to know, because grandma and grandpa knew everything.
“Oh well, pretty soon I guess,” she wasn’t sure, but she didn’t care that sounded good enough for her.
Tia stayed in the kitchen. She wanted to meet him at the door when he got there. Every time she heard a car turn onto the gravel road she got excited. Tia would run out to the back porch and look. An hour passed and then two, but it wasn’t late yet. He had no idea when grandma and I were supposed to come back so she was sure he was just giving them plenty of time. Finally, she took up a vigil in the back porch, petting the kitties to pass time. Dad was really taking forever, but she knew he would come. He said he would be back and so he would be back.
So she waited the rest of the day, going in between the kitchen and the back porch where she would pet the cats to relieve her nervous excitement. Finally, the sun had almost set and she gave up. Tia stayed downstairs for a bit, watching television without any great enthusiasm then she decided to go to bed. It was summer and it was early, but it didn’t matter. Her grandpa had come home, and they were sitting out in the sunroom watching TV.
“Goodnight, I’m going to bed,” she gave them both hugs and kiss.
“Goodnight sweetheart, we love you.”
“I love you too,” she smiled at them, and then she trudged upstairs to her room.
Tia changed into her pajamas and pulled the covers up and then she stared at the wall troubled. First one tear and then another made its way down her face.
He hadn’t come back. Why hadn’t he come back? Tia had waited all day for him. He didn’t call and say he wasn’t coming all he had left was the note, and it said that he was supposed to be back so why wasn’t he back? Tia cried into her pillow, muffling the sobs as the disappointment welled up and reared its ugly head. It was crushing, rending her heart into painful pieces. Why did they always promise? They always promised, and then it never came true.
Tia turned the bedside lamp back on, and blew her nose on a tissue. Her chest hitching awkwardly as she still cried, biting her lip she went over to her book shelf. She took out The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Tia started reading even though her tears made the page blurry, eventually exhaustion set in along with a mild headache. She couldn’t understand it so she read and lost herself in the comforting blanket of fantasy, and finally when her eyes were about to fall shut of their own accord she put the book down and turned out the light. Tia rolled over and went to sleep, letting exhaustion and thoughts of Narnia block out the events of the day. Maybe he would come tomorrow. The note didn’t say ‘today’ so maybe he’d meant the next day and he’d just forgotten to add it into the note…yeah…that was it. Tia drifted off then.