With my legs wrapped around the branch, my eyes slid from the light of the moon shimmering off the surface of the pond down to where my brother stood. But I couldn’t see him. A body was hanging with a rope around its neck right below me. The knot was right in front of me–right there, a cold dead knot. The body swung slightly and her hair hung down in front of her face. I couldn’t see Nate at all.
“Maybe we can save her!” I yelled, and my voice echoed across the pond and back.
I began to attack that knot. The dead knot that was holding my mother hanging. I dug and tore and my lungs filled up with air but it weren’t ever enough and a burning spread from my hurt to up and down and out the heels of my feet, the tips of my fingers, and the top of my head. My lungs seemed not to be working so I took more air and it weren’t enough so I took another and then again, and little lightning bugs were flashing in front of my faces and I was still clawing at that knot when a great light burst from the sky hit me square in the face: BOOM!
Neill, Neill. I was dreaming or something. Mom was there and her dark hair and her dark eyes were alive as she hugged me as we sat in Pops old, musty truck that smelled like dirt and sweat and trundled down the road away from our house. Even it’s windows looked empty. At that moment I had no home.
The first thing I felt was a throbbing in my left ankle, then the wet. When I opened my eyes I was staring up at the stars. I was on my back on the ground. My legs had fallen in the pond and my feet were soggy. I could feel a throbbing in my fingertips and held them up, ran my thumbs across them. I winced. I’d ripped two fingernails off the right hand, one off the left. They all felt sticky.
“Nate?” I asked.
“I’m here,” said Nate.
“Where’s Ma?” I asked turning on my side.
My brother was tall and slender in the moonlight. My flashlight had tripped near his feet and was still there. His was still in his hand,but pointing down at the ground, his hooded head was turned up at The Sad Tree.
“She’s gone,” he said.
“But,” I shifted this way and that, pulling my legs up out of the water, my twisted ankle gave a jolt that traveled up my leg. “But I saw her,” I said. “She was there. Did she fall?” I turned from side to side, searching for my mother’s fallen body.
“She wasn’t ever really here,” said Nate. “Just visiting.”
“Just visiting. Even in Georgia she was always on those walks, remember?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“So she’d just had enough and went to the woods, I think. She didn’t care about the rest of this,” he waved his hands around.
“She cared,” I said. “She did.”
“Then why’d she leave? Why’d she do this–this of all things?” he asked.
“Maybe her heart was left in Georgia,” I said.
“Yeah,” said Nate, which surprised me, because he never said I was right. “Maybe she did. Or maybe she didn’t, but now we’re alone with Pop. How you think that’s going to play out?”