Chapter 1 – Alicia leaves home

Alicia had hugged her mother a little awkwardly that morning. She felt that being too intimate felt a little odd, just before she started an important journey into a new part of her life. Now they stood in front of one another, on the stoop of their white, gabled home surrounded by evergreens. It was windy and there was an azure blue sky above. This was a moment of parting between mother and daughter.

Alicia’s  mother gazed down at her, through deep brown eyes that glowed hazel in the sunlight, and Alicia looked up at her but then down at her shoes. She felt a little sheepish at not meeting her mother’s emotional look, and compensated by reaching up and holding her close, shoulder to shoulder, just so, and kissed her on the cheek. At least she meant to kiss her on the cheek – she actually kissed her ear, because her mother leaned in and grabbed her quickly. She didn’t feel right about an awkward embrace and wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to feel her daughter’s warmth close to her one last time. As she held her close, Alli’s mother smelled the slightly floral remnants of yesterday’s perfume spritz on her sweater and in her hair, and felt the warmth of her daughter’s breath on her neck.

“I’ll miss you, Alli,” said her mother, her eyes brimming with tears of pride and sadness all at once. “You’re ready to go now. I hope you have a safe trip. Make sure you send a text message when you get to the flat in Hamilton. I will call your Aunt Veronica to make sure she meets you at the train station in Aldershot.”

“I’ll be fine mom, it isn’t so far – just three hours away or so.” And then, looking at her mother’s liquid eyes, she added “But I will text you. I am excited about the trip.”

Her father’s voice called from the car. He spoke slowly in a confident, measured and gentle tone, as accountants often do. “Come now, you’ll miss the train, Alli! You can always talk on the mobile!”

And so, the slim, tallish golden-haired girl hefted her suitcase into the trunk of dark blue Volvo station wagon and lithely slipped into the passenger seat. Her father looked over and smiled. He was proud of his fiercely independent daughter, who was so pretty yet so awkward. He thought to himself that underneath the body hardened by running and the gym and countless hours of volleyball, was a sentimental girl who played the piano sweetly and emotionally. Who still looked with wonder at a night sky littered with stars. Well, at least she did when no one was watching.

He watched her as she checked her appearance in vanity mirror. Mascara – check. Brimming tears hadn’t smudged it. Straightened hair, with hazel streaks – check. She was ready for travel.

Alli’s father started the car which grumbled gently as it rolled down their gravel drive towards the main road. Alli looked back and watched her mother’s figure get smaller as she receded into the distance. Her mother’s white capris and yellow linen blouse fluttered in the stiff breeze – and the white aluminum-paneled house with yellow gables shrank and eventually disappeared behind the oak trees lining the front edge of the property.

The Volvo picked up speed and soon, the feel of motion lulled Alli into calm. Her father was listening to a talking book about Pierre Trudeau’s life on the stereo. The sun was warm on her shoulder and on the right side of her face. Alli would soon be making her own way in the world for the first time. She was on her way to a new life at McMaster University in Hamilton. She felt a little anxious, but sitting in a sunbeam with the golden fields rolling by – Alli was happy.



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