Sung Home: Chapter Twenty Three. {fiction}

After securing his horse to a juniper, Victorio led me by the hand up a steep sandy rise to a doorway, partially shielded from view by stands of mountain mahogany.

Victorio put two fingers in his mouth and whistled shrilly. Moments later, the door flew open and before me stood Jeanne, mother of my now dead childhood friends Lilly, Miriam and Liam, and their surviving older siblings, Noah and Hallie.

“Eeeeeee!” she shrieked in delight, flinging her muscular arms around me and squeezing me so tightly against her ample bosom that I thought she might crack my ribs. When she finally loosened her grip and stepped back from me, I saw happy tears glistening in her eyes.

Her words came in a long torrent, “My god, I’m so glad you made it. I was furious that we couldn’t come get you as soon as Frank and Ching Shih spotted you last fall! But we had agreed in the beginning that we could only bring in someone new after they had proven they wouldn’t be a burden — an agreement I now regret of course! I was so worried about you, honey, I just don’t know what to say.

Of course those of us who knew you knew you’d do fine, with your great hunting skills and all. We knew you had found the shed too. Then Victorio said it looked like maybe you left, that your shed had been trashed by vermin, so I felt so bad we had missed you, but I hoped he was wrong and you were still around. I knew you’d make it one way or another, and you sure have.

I’ve been so anxious, hoping Victorio would bring you back to us, I could hardly think straight!”

Not knowing what else to do, I submitted to this furious and affectionate outburst, though my head swirled with the intensity. When she finally ran out of steam, I croaked tentatively, “It’s so good to see you.” My words felt completely inadequate. How could I explain in a sentence or two, standing in her doorway, what it had been like to be alone for so long, to live nearly a whole year without knowing they were there?

“I almost didn’t make it. The rodents got into my food, I mean, while I was still living there. It was my winter stash,” I added, looking at my feet.

Her face fell and she paled despite her naturally ruddy complexion, stepping back to take in my thin form, perhaps realizing how bad it had actually been for me. I didn’t know if her lack of awareness should make me more mad or less. Still, her warm arms around me had felt incredibly good. Her enthusiastic affection made it hard to be as angry as I had intended.

I could nestle inside that embrace for weeks, cracking ribs or not. Mama and Jeanne had always been close friends.

“Well, let’s get inside and we’ll get caught up,” as she turned, leading us down a narrow passageway much like my own.

Beyond the entrance, Jeanne’s cave home was quite different from mine. The walls were smooth and gracefully curving the way that a river carves canyons, not covered in detailed relief carvings. The passageway opened into a room so large that it included several thick trunk-like pillars throughout to keep the ceiling from caving in.

The kitchen lay off to the right with a long counter of dark wood along one wall, embedded with a large deep stainless-steel sink, a four-burner electric stove and oven, wooden cabinets above and below with the same smoothly curved aesthetic as the walls. Another freestanding counter sat parallel and just opposite the first, with more cabinets beneath.

The other side of the huge room held three long couches organized in a U shape, topped with thick, comfortable-looking cushions in a muted sunset color, and several matching chairs here and there. A broad, thick, pine coffee table sat between the couches, covered with a Monopoly game, apparently in progress.

Brightly painted wooden toys — chunky carved animals, trees, and alphabet blocks — lay strewn about the floor of the living room.

Between the kitchen and the living room stood a massive pine table with eight matching chairs, all polished to a tawny sheen. The table looked like it had once been quite elegant, but now bore the dings and stains common to well-used family furniture. The long wall on the far side of the living room sported four doors to one side of a shadowy arched hallway.

“Jeanne lives with Noah and Frank, and the two kids she has with Frank. Hallie lives with Beto and their little girl, Uma,” Victorio explained quietly into my ear as Jeanne frenetically pulled food out of the refrigerator and serving dishes and plates out of the cupboards. Jeanne’s older children, Noah and his sister Hallie, would now be in their mid-twenties.

“Sit down, sit down!” Jeanne commanded cheerfully, gesturing to the dining table.

Seeing me eyeing the furnishings, she said, “You know, Hallie made the tables and all the wooden toys for the children, in her workshop, and all the cupboards and the island in the kitchen. She also made the bed frames, closets and shelves in the bedrooms. She has a real gift for woodworking, and she’s built a lot of things for the other homes too.”

Two small children, Obsidian, or Sid, sporting a brown spiky hair cut, and Ruby, a little older and adorned with bobbing copper curls, materialized from one of the four doors. Scuttling like crabs to Jeanne, they clung like burrs to her legs, nearly tripping her as she carried a tray holding roasted piñon nuts and teetering mugs of tea to the table.

They stared wide-eyed at me, as if I had just emerged from a spaceship wearing three heads.

Never in their lives had they seen anyone besides the people they had known since they were born.

As the children bravely clambered upon seats on either side of their mother, watching me with less fear and increasing curiosity, we heard the clunk of a door opening from the back of the cave and male voices that sounded like they were coming from the dark hallway. Soon two men, one middle-aged and one much younger, rounded the far wall into the living room, each slinging a crossbow and hunting bag.

The younger one had been talking animatedly to the older one, when the older one stopped suddenly, staring at me with much the same expression as the toddlers. The younger one, whom I recognized as Noah, looked up and stared for just an instant before his face burst into a wide-toothed smile.

“Oh my god, Lakshmi! I knew you’d make it! I just knew it! God, I wish we could’ve brought you sooner,” Noah rushed up to me, lifting me up out of my seat and squeezing like his mother had. It was strange to be almost as tall as Noah now, since I had been a scrawny child of nine and he a gangly teenager last time we had seen each other.

Holding me for a moment at arm’s length, he gazed at me as if in wonder at my own transformation.

The man whom I had correctly assumed to be Frank, Jeanne’s partner and father of her younger children, stood watching, the corner of his mouth cocked in a slight grin. I saw where the curly-headed Ruby had gotten her red hair.

When Noah finally released me back into my chair, finding one of his own and reaching for the bowl of nuts, Frank stepped forward, hand extended, “Hi, I’m Frank. I’m one of the evil ones who insisted we follow our own rules and see if you could make it through the winter.” His tone was wry and tentative, but warm.

“I gotta say, everything they said about you,” he said, nodding towards Jeanne, Noah and Victorio, “was sure true. I’m really glad you made it. We’re gonna need you here.”

“Yeah, well, I’m glad I made it too… um, yeah,” said I as I shook his hand. I couldn’t think of how to finish that sentence, so I just let it hang. Jeanne shot a pointed look at Frank who promptly took a seat himself and stopped talking. Over the course of the day, word spread of my arrival and the occupants of the other cave houses trickled into Jeanne’s home and her large, comfortable living room.

This is an ongoing series from a forthcoming fiction novel by Laura Ramnarace.
Tune in weekly for the next chapter in ‘Sung Home’.


Laura Ramnarace, M.A. was driven to earn a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution while on her quest to find out why we can’t just all get along. She has published a book on inter-personal conflict, ‘Getting Along: The Wild, Wacky World of Human Relationship’, published a newspaper column also titled ‘Getting Along’, and submits regularly to Rebelle Society. Since 1999, she has provided training to a wide variety of groups on improving personal, working and inter-group relationships. ‘Sung Home’ is a work of eco-fiction set in southwestern New Mexico.


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