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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, December 11, 2023

After Years: Chapter Three


Editor’s note: This column is part of a fictional weekly serial.

Edgar had been watching the car wind towards his house for the better part of half an hour now. So open were the fields between here and the horizon. For 30 years, any movement on the road had caused his heart to clench — lock all the doors, close the shutters — and even though this time company was expected, he couldn’t entirely banish the impulse to flee. He considered his fortitude, remaining at this window, a verification that skills once thought lost through carelessness could still be counted on.

He liked to think of the road as his driveway, even though it passed dozens of other homes on either side of him. Still, as far as the eye could see, it was his alone. Whether that made the little house more vulnerable or more defensible depended on who was doing the defending.

The car had pulled up, but he didn’t go downstairs. One more minute to get his thoughts in order for the weeks to come. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but the women getting out of the car looked distinctly American. They were family, of course, but they were still Americans, by birth, language and loyalty. It wasn’t nationalism, exactly, that made him bitter with this observation, but it certainly was with less than eagerness that he finally descended to greet them.

The younger woman, the one he’d never seen before, had already started unloading her luggage onto the front step with a fervor that seemed to imply that the sooner they moved in the sooner they could leave. She fumbled at the handle of a suitcase as Edgar opened the front door, ultimately dropping it.

“Where would you expect to put all that, then?” he groused, itching under the collar of his wool sweater. Damned humidity. “Nobody warned me you’d be moving in permanently.”

“With you about to kick it, I figured we should come prepared, in case I inherit the house! You are planning to leave it to me, right?” The older woman smiled cheekily at him.

“Mom! Not the time!”

“Why didn’t you ever tell me how pretty it was over here, Dad? Such a deep green and all those quaint little houses with mossy shingle roofs and chickens in the yard --”

“It’s not quaint; it’s poverty!” Edgar snapped. This was going well.

His daughter, Alicia, blew out a breath into the tense silence that followed, but she looked unoffended and unsurprised. Finally, the younger woman stepped forward, proffering her hand.

“I’m Cecilia. We haven’t met, obviously. Should I call you Edgar or Grandpa? You seem like a ‘Grandfather,’ but that just sounds weird coming out of my mouth.”

Remembering himself, remembering why he had set this all in motion, Edgar softened, pulling Cecilia into a hug. How to handle this best?

“Call me whatever you’ve been calling me in your head for the last thirty years. Doesn’t make much sense to start something new now. Come in, come in...”

Alicia watched them disappear into the shadowy front hall, wondering at her father’s ulterior motives in bringing them here, wondering if he would ever tell.