“May? Do you suppose that we’ll ever find the rest of the family?” I turned my head back to the sky as if I were drinking straight from it. The auburn skies covering us like a welcome blanket in the cold were sheltering the farm that belonged to the elders of my mother’s side of the family.”In time for dinner, or in general?” May’s long red hair was tangling and blowing around in the wind perfectly like we were in a Disney movie, reminding me that even though we were about the same age, she was already far closer to perfection that I would ever be.
“In time for dinner. I’m hungry, and that witch’s brew we made earlier didn’t help at all.” In reality, the witch’s brew was just a barrel filled with rain water that we’d put some of the loose grain from the yard into, pretending to drink from it and be bewitched.
May took my hand and started almost dragging me across the front yard of the house that we’d already crossed, walking around in a huge circle. Every nook and cranny of that house felt familiar to me as we had been there numerous occasions before (and one of those times, there had been a false tornado alert while I had been eating ice cream, most likely with my mother out of the house) but also felt alien- although I didn’t notice it at the time- because my great-grandmother was still stuck in a completely different and older era. Our family had been in the house earlier when we’d left to go play, but it was desolate and locked up now. “Come on, Emma, I think I know the way now.”
We passed by the huge metallic silo, glistening silver in the muted light, but I couldn’t pay much attention as she was pulling hard on my arm, almost dragging me across the slightly less grassy pathways that time had carved into the ground.
“May? Do you think you could slow down a bit?” She ignored me as usual, and I could feel a few blades of grass tickle the spot in between my toes where the skin was prone to ripping at inopportune times. “Please?”
Pretending that I hadn’t spoken at all and pointing to a spot off in the distance, she inquired, “Do you think that maybe they’re in that house?”
I had to squint in order to see something other than a blur, and after a few seconds, I could make it out to be another house. My vision has never been excellent, and it wasn’t that much better at nine years old. “Maybe. Are we going over there? Or are you going to keep pretending that I have shoes on like you and keep going so fast?”
“It isn’t my fault that you forgot your shoes inside the house. Maybe you should have brought them before they locked the house up and left.” She picked her nose right in front of me, not giving a crap about the rules of politeness, and wiped her fingers on her cheap jeans when she was done. “Now come on. We got to keep going.”
We continued trudging through the fields as fast as our preteen legs could carry us, and eventually enough, we approached the front porch of a house that looked like it hadn’t seen proper maintenance in quite a while. “Are you going to go in first, Emma, or are you?”
“I’ll go, May. You’d probably mess something up horribly.” I took a few apprehensive steps, my toes wishing that they didn’t have to go on the wood that looked like it might splinter at a moment’s notice. When I reached the door, which felt like it took forever, I quietly knocked on the door, hoping that is was the right house and that we wouldn’t have to wander any more.
The door creaked, and an adolescent boy peered from behind the door, wondering who in the world could be disturbing him at dinner time. “Hello?”
“Is our family here?”
“I don’t know who you are, but I’m the only person here. I hear that the neighbors are having a dinner party over at that house-” and he opened the door wider so that he could point behind the house, at which point May went to go look around in that direction- “and I’d prefer that you please don’t knock again.” He slowly closed the door, probably trying to make sure that he didn’t jam any of our fingers in the door hinge.
“Well, would you look at that,” May complained, her hands on her hips. “We missed it by… oh, I don’t know, fifty feet.” And sure enough, there was another house practically sharing a backyard with the teenage boy’s residence, a clothesline connecting the two. We practically started running towards it like those race horses you see after the front gate’s been opened and crossed the distance in less than a minute, ending up as a tangle of sweaty limbs and denim clothes in the ending house’s garden.
“Well, at least we avoided the vegetables,” May whispered, helping me out of the garden. “Imagine explaining that to our parents.”
“Yeah, that would be bad.” I turned my back to her, and she followed me as we went around the house, finding the front door and opening it to be greeted by a widely-smiling woman and my parents.
“Why, hello there, Emma! We’ve been waiting for you!” Is she the owner of the house? “Your parents are here, and they want to speak to you for a moment.”
Mom and Dad appeared in the doorway then. “Emma? Where have you been?”
“I’ve been-” but I turned around, hoping that May would back me up, but she wasn’t there. She’d never been there.